The Pacific Islands of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are all proud rugby nations.
However, these small countries often have their best players plucked away from them by the big boys as the likes of New Zealand and England can offer better money and a chance to play at the highest level.
Here, we put together a near unstoppable team of players who were either born in the Pacific Islands or who could have represented them through their family history. Some of these players represent their native countries, while others have taken advatage of the residency rule to play for bigger nations.
1. Mako Vunipola
Born in New Zealand, raised in Wales, Vunipola is the son of a former Tongan captain and the loosehead is currently an integral part of the English front row.
His younger brother Billy is a titanic presence at number eight and was unlucky to miss out on this side. Regardless, Mako is a tremendous scrummager and tireless workhorse in the loose, providing destructive carrying as well as a sturdy set piece.
2. Christopher Tolofua
The France and Saracens hooker is one of the most promising young players in Europe. He made his debut as an 18-year-old against Argentina over five years ago. A native of Wallis and Futuna, a small island in the south Pacific, with a population of just under 12,000 people. An energetic and damaging player in the loose he is sure to improve more under Mark McCall.
3. Logivi’i Mulipola
The Samoan and Leicester prop is a rare breed, able to play both sides of the scrum. A man mountain at 130kg and six-foot-four, he signed for the club after Henry Tuilagi suggested him to Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill.
Winning 20 caps for his nation of birth he is a massive presence on the park.
4. Leone Nakarawa
A phenomenal athlete and freak of nature in the loose. Part of the Fiji sevens squad that won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics he has also been capped 44 times. A late bloomer signing his first professional contract at the age of 25 he was part of the Fijian military until signing for Glasgow in 2013. Now tearing up the Top14 for Racing Metro he is considered one of the best locks in world rugby.
5. Will Skelton
Standing six-foot-eight and weighing in at 140 kg, Goliath wouldn’t want to tackle big Will. With soft hands and a massive running game.
Born in Auckland, capped by Australia, of Samoan descent the monster second row had a multitude of nations chasing his allegiance at international level. Now playing for Saracens in the Aviva Premiership he continues to cause havoc for opposition.
6. Jerome Kaino
Born in Western Samoa, the Auckland Blues man is an All Black legend. A double World Cup winner with 81 caps to his name the back-rower is a beast of a man. A defensive rock, with a powerful carrying game he does the dirty work other players won’t do. Unfortunately picking up an injury this week in training, his November series is over.
7. Jack Lam
The Samoan and Bristol back rower has been immense since moving to the Northern Hemisphere. The son of rugby legend Pat Lam, he is a big hitter and strong ball carrier.
An inspiring leader for the South West club he is set to start for Samoa against Scotland tomorrow. Expect a big performance, being a nuisance around the breakdown.
8. Taulupe Faletau
Born in Tonga the dynamic number eight has excelled in the red of Wales, earning 66 caps as well as four Lions Test caps. A world-class operator he combines immense strength with deft offloads, great footwork and an enormous engine. Starting the seasons excellently for Bath expect him to have a massive Autumn series for Wales.
9. Will Genia
The Australia scrum-half could have represented the country of his birth Papua New Guinea but instead has amassed 85 caps for the green and gold. Bursting onto the international scene in scintillating fashion in 2009 he was almost untouchable, suffering a drop-in form in recent years he has nevertheless come soaring back into form this season. A constant threat around the fringes he is a nightmare for opposition back row.
10. Richie Mounga
The Canterbury fly-half played superbly for the Barbarians against New Zealand last weekend, stamping his authority against the world champions.
A future All Blacks star his performances this season in Super Rugby have been mesmeric. Able to represent Tonga or Samoa as well he is a future star of World Rugby.
11. Julian Savea
Another All Black wing of Samoan ancestry, ‘The Bus’ has an enviable strike rate of 46 tries in 54 Tests for the All Blacks. Nominated for World Player of the Year in 2015 he has suffered a decline in form this season, nevertheless roaring back at the tail end of the season for Wellington he is a world-class finisher, able to run around or through defences.
12. Bundee Aki
The Connacht centre is set to make his debut for Ireland Saturday against South Africa. Able to play for New Zealand or Samoa he has been sensational since moving to the western province three years ago. A powerful runner with soft hands he is set to tear up defences on the International stage after dominating the PRO14.
13. Tevita Kuridrani
The giant centre scored a hattrick of tries against Japan last week, underlining his killer instinct in attack. Standing six-foot-five, he is of Fijian descent but has instead turned to his adopted nation of Australia, collecting 52 caps.
An expert at getting over the gain line due to his fierce hand-off and sublime support play.
14. Nemani Nadolo
Weighing in at 130kg and towering at nearly two metres tall the Montpellier and Fiji wing is a titan. Scoring 19 tries in 26 Tests he is an unparalleled finisher, able to smash would be tacklers out of the way and possessing an offloading game that defies the laws of physics his absence in the national squad this autumn is bizarre. A close call between him and compatriot Josua Tuisova for the number 14 shirt.
15. Telusa Veainu
The Tonga and Leicester full-back has been in ridiculous form this season in the Premiership. Signed by the club after a break out 2015 World Cup he is a flyer with lightning fast feet. In broken field he is prolific, with a devastating change of pace and ability to spot a gap. born and raised in New Zealand he has bucked the trend by playing for his ancestral country.
Aled Price, Pundit Arena
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Read More About: bundee aki, jack lam, Jerome Kaino, julian savea, Leone Nakar, Mako Vunipola, nemani nadolo, Richie Mo'unga, Taulupe Faletau, Tevita Kuridrani, Tolofua, vunipola, will genia, will skelton