Brother of Manu Tuilagi to play for charity side
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.”