Super Rugby Good For Islands: Leo
in August, and works with the 72 players of Samoan, Fijian or Tongan heritage who operate in the Premiership, providing advice on a variety of social and financial issues. “The programme is about increasing communication at all levels,” the former Wasps lock explained.
“Our [Pacific Island] cultures are very indirect and hierarchical. It would be very disrespectful to ask questions of those in authority, like coaches. “So part of the RPA programme is to up-skill players in the Premiership about the cultural differences.
Many Fijian-born players, like Wasps’ Nathan Hughes, have chosen to represent other nations at Test level, after completing three years of residency “Culturally we are not encouraged to verbalise our frustrations, talk and ask questions.
“Therefore it is very easy to act those frustrations out physically, either off the field or on it.” Leo has already been able to make a difference in helping Pacific Island players acclimatise to life in England.
“I’ve come across a Pacific Island player here in the Premiership who didn’t like his nickname, and saw it as a big sign of disrespect,” Leo continues. “For six months he just wanted to leave the club, but when I explained it is a sign of endearment and once he understood that he was so happy. “And he has now gone to being one of their top performers.” Leo says he wants to use his own experiences as a young player in England to help others. “I struggled when I came here,” he admitted. “I was summoned to court twice for things like unpaid TV license and council tax. “It may seem trivial to people who have grown up here and understand the system, but if you are coming from a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific, even trying to get things like a driver’s licence can be quite difficult.”
As well as talking to players across the game, Leo has visited a number of Premiership clubs, educating their administrators about the challenges facing Pacific Island players who have relocated to England. “There are players over here who send a lot of money home to try and maintain the connection with their families and communities back in the Islands,” Leo added. BBC Sports
Metuisela Talebula attacks for the Vodafone Flying Fijians against England last weekend.
Former Samoan captain Dan Leo.