Flying Fijians utility back Vilimoni Botitu is relishing his first-ever Rugby World Cup journey in France and has shared his experience of reaching the quarterfinals after 16 years.
The Fiji 7s 2021 Tokyo Olympics Gold medalist returned to his French Top 14 Club Castres Olympique immediately after losing to England in the tournament quarters.
“My best memory of the World Cup is without a doubt my try and this match against England, which was played by so few. Playing in Marseille, at the Vélodrome stadium, was also impressive: the fervor and the sensations were incredible,” he told the club website.
“I had the opportunity to discover the city and a little more French cuisine that I love. It was also an opportunity to look at the progress we have made.”
It all started for Botitu in Ba-a football crazy town of Fiji, where he began playing rugby at the age of nine and no later his talent and skills saw him make the cut into the Fiji 7s team keeping in mind the aim to = earn income for his family.
“I chose rugby because I love this sport and I wanted to help my family, to be able to provide for them. In Fiji, it’s every little boy’s dream to play abroad and help his loved ones. We are five brothers in the family, all boys.”
“I didn’t even try anything else, I started in primary school then I continued in high school, at Natabua High School, and I was spotted to join the national U18 team, where I played in New Zealand in the Pacific Challenge. Then I went to Uruguay and Romania, they were great experiences for me, it made me grow.”
“I was then selected for the Fiji national sevens team, where I played more than 80 matches between 2018 and 2021. I even have the chance to win the Olympic Games: a dream come true.”
Considered one of the most promising players of his generation, Botitu was approached by Castres Olympique in 2020 and did not hesitate for a single second to move so far from home.
“I arrived here young, at 22 years old. It’s true, but I didn’t suffer from it. I had already gone to the selection several times, I was used to it. What was hardest was the cold here. The pace of life is also different. In Fiji, everything is calmer and quieter.”
Shy and reserved by nature, he gradually established himself as an executive in the field and admits to being perfectly fulfilled in Castres.
“I feel at home here, it’s a family club that resembles me. The players and staff welcomed me so well. I know we still have beautiful things to experience together.”
“I come back as soon as I have a few holidays. My parents travelled for the first time in their lives, and are currently with me in Castres. I showed them the region. They’re leaving next month, I’m a little sad, I’ll be alone again, but that’s life.”
“I’m going to disappoint some people but to be honest, I love being at home and I’m more into series/films on the sofa (laughs)! Right now I love Lone Survivor or Money Heist.”