Brother of Manu Tuilagi to play for char­ity side

The National - News - - SPORT - Paul Radley

Play­ers who signed up for the In­ter­na­tional Vets tour­na­ment at the Dubai Sevens prob­a­bly had in mind some semi-com­pet­i­tive rugby as a back­drop to a week­end of fun. They might not have fac­tored in the fact Manu Tuilagi’s big brother might be in op­po­si­tion.

If it makes the fear­some prospect any more palat­able, at least Ale­sana Tuilagi is not quite the big­gest of the Eng­land cen­tre’s five broth­ers, judg­ing by the fam­ily pic­ture that went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia dur­ing the World Cup.

Still, though, those lin­ing up to face Christina No­ble Chil­dren’s Foun­da­tion in the 10s event for play­ers who are 35 and over would be for­given for feel­ing cer­tain amount of trep­i­da­tion.

The wing, 38, made a name for him­self as a wreck­ing ball for Le­ices­ter Tigers in Eng­land, as well as in the 2007, 2011 and 2015 World Cups with Samoa.

Now he will be adding con­sid­er­able heft to the char­ity side’s bid to re­claim a ti­tle they once won as a matter of course. CNCF won the In­ter­na­tional Vets tro­phy five times in a row up un­til 2011.

Their run of suc­cess slowed, to the point that they did not even en­ter a side 12 months ago. They are back now, though, with the sort of side that sug­gests a re­turn to for­mer glo­ries could well be in their reach.

As well as the power Tuilagi, they have the skill of two for­mer World Sevens play­ers of the year to call on in their squad. Orene Ai’i, who won that award as a star of New Zealand’s side on the cir­cuit in 2005, is the co-cap­tain of the team. His for­mer New Zealand team­mate, Afeleke Pe­lenise, who won the ac­co­lade two years later, is also in the Christina No­ble squad.

“As soon as Ale­sana is on the ball, the mind­set changes, but I think that is right across the board in the vets com­pe­ti­tion,” Elvis Se­veali’I, the CNCF co-cap­tain, said.

“We have a spe­cial bunch of play­ers, even though we had to make some last-minute calls. It is go­ing to be a big chal­lenge to get the team to­gether, but we have an ex­cit­ing team.”

De­spite the side’s ab­sence last year, CNCF re­main one of the most recog­nis­able sides at the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Af­ter a year away, CNCF is very proud as the most suc­cess­ful char­ity rugby team to be back in Dubai for the Sevens,” Warren Weener, the team man­ager, said.

“The UAE has con­sis­tently been a strong base of sup­port for the foun­da­tion, and the work that we do with or­phaned and aban­doned chil­dren to give them op­por­tu­nity and hope.”

Ale­sana Tuilagi

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