Dubai: Once you’ve done a tour of duty with the French Foreign Legion, the stress of a sevens game means nothing, according to France debutant flanker Tavite Veredamu.
The Fiji-born 28-year-old moved to France at the age of 18 to become a Legionnaire, with whom he’s seen active duty in Syria, having been based in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Military City.
“When you go out into foreign countries during wartime you gain confidence,” he told Gulf News following his debut against Scotland, which France lost 24-14 on Friday.
“I don’t get stressed in sevens. Having experienced stress in the Legion, seven’s stress is normal, it feels like nothing.”
The Legion is renowned for being one of the hardest regiments to get into thanks to its gruelling initiation process, putting sevens pre-season training somewhat to shame.
“Training for both is hard in different ways, in the Legion it’s all about endurance, whereas sevens is about speed.
“You also get a lot of time to recover in sevens, whereas in the Legion you don’t get any time, every second you have to be ready.
“Training for both has helped me and I get the same pride in donning the France jersey as I do in wearing the Kepi Blanc,” he said of the white cap issued to Legionnaires upon graduation.
Veredamu was drafted into the France squad after Olympic gold medal winning former Fiji coach Ben Ryan became consultant.
There’s a strong rugby relationship between both countries with Fiji sevens players traditionally migrating to France to take up lucrative 15s club contracts. But Veredamu moved for military reasons and having lived there for a decade he qualifies to play under a five-year residency rule.
Now he believes there are many more Fijians like him who could help France develop their sevens side in time for Paris’ hosting of the 2024 Olympics.
Although France have been to three World Cup 15s finals they have been slow on the uptake with sevens since it became an Olympic sport and may now need to fast-track using the experience of Fijians, who won the last Olympic gold medal in 2016.
“France has a good 15s side but they need to work more at sevens,” added Veredamu. “There’s a relationship between French and Fijian clubs and a lot of players are coming to France for rugby. I think we can help but it depends on the federation.”