Kinspan Venue Fa­mil­iar: Qera

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When Fiji take on the fa­mous Bar­bar­ians at Belfast’s Kingspan Sta­dium, on Satur­day, it’s safe to say the old ground won’t look too fa­mil­iar to their coach or cap­tain. Coach John McKee, whose var­ied CV in­cludes stints in France, Aus­tralia, Eng­land and Tonga, well re­mem­bers vis­its to what was then Raven­hill when he was an as­sis­tant to Michael Bradley at Con­nacht. “I re­ally en­joyed my time in Ire­land,” he re­called. “My wife is from Mayo so the time I spent there was very good rugby-wise but also for the fam­ily. “I can well re­mem­ber a few trips up to Raven­hill to play Ul­ster, there were some great con­tests. They had a great tra­di­tion then but it was look­ing quite tired back in the early 2000s. “I came here with Tonga to play Ire­land ‘A’ a few years later and the im­prove­ments were look­ing good then and there’s been a lot done since. It’s a top class sta­dium now.” Skip­per Aka­pusi Qera’s vis­its to Belfast have been less fre­quent but he was part of the Glouces­ter team that took home a bonus-point win from a Heineken Cup game in 2007. He says the vast im­prove­ments to fa­cil­i­ties for vis­it­ing tour­ing teams bodes well for Ire­land’s 2023 World Cup bid. “I have good mem­o­ries here from play­ing Ul­ster. The sup­port­ers re­ally back their play­ers and some will be there for the Baa-Baas,” he said.

“It looks good now. If the World Cup was to come here it would be great for Ire­land rugby.” The Bar­bar­ians, who are cap­tained by Ul­ster’s own Dan Tuohy in to­mor­row’s clash with the Czech Repub­lic - and he will be joined by his team-mates Ruan Pien­aar and Tommy Bowe for Kingspan con­test - are ex­pected to turn on their cus­tom­ary style this week­end. McKee wants to see his side re­spond in kind, but also build the struc­tures nec­es­sary for the re­main­der of their Novem­ber slate. The 10th-ranked side in the world will also take on Eng­land be­fore meet­ing Ja­pan.

“It’s a tra­di­tional fix­ture and it’s one you don’t get many op­por­tu­ni­ties to play in,” added McKee. “The boys are re­ally look­ing for­ward to it. The Bar­bar­ian style suits us as it’s a type of game we like to play. “Cer­tainly we’re look­ing for­ward to their game in terms of how it’s played but it’s im­por­tant for us as part of the Novem­ber tour. We’re ap­proach­ing it very se­ri­ously. We’re look­ing for a good per­for­mance to launch our­selves into the game against Eng­land.” Belfast Tele­graph

Aka­pusi Qera.

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