While much of the country eagerly anticipates the IRB Sevens Tournament making its way to Las Vegas next week, Wellington is already buzzing with Sevens excitement as it hosts the first leg of the Tournament. Team USA will be among the many Nations competing in Wellington, however they won’t be the only country to have players that have played Rugby on American soil.
Also playing in Wellington is former Sacramento Lion Kilifi Latu, who will be wearing the royal red of his native Tonga.
Latu, who spent last year in the USA, played an integral role in the Lions most successful season to date. He was a standout utility back. With his athletic versatility he was often slotted in at Fullback, but was just as comfortable playing the decision maker at flyhalf. Noted for his attacking prowess from anywhere on the field and never being one to shy away on defense, Latu was a permanent fixture on a Sacramento side that upset the likes of OMBAC and Austin Blacks.
Of his former teammate, current Sacramento Lion Captain Dennis Saafi says, “he has the awareness to see the whole field and has the passing strength to get the ball wherever he wants, but also has a great touch for short pops. He brought very good Rugby knowledge, which matched his abilities and speed. It was an honor to play and hangout with Kilifi.”
Prior to playing for the Sacramento Lions, Latu had also played for New Zealand Club Timaru Celtics, where he was a leading try scorer. He was also on the radar of Japan’s Top Side Sanyo Rugby Club.
Unable to secure permanent work in the United States and exhausting all his visa options, Latu returned home to Tonga where he continued to flourish for his old club. As a result, he will be part of Tongan team that looks to draw inspiration from its country’s defeat of France at the last World Cup.
So as most American Ruggers will be glued to their televisions and computers cheering for team USA this week in Wellington, there is at least one group that will be keen to see the performance of their former fellow teammate.