PRPW Launches In France!
Pacific Rugby Players Welfare has launched in France, hosting more than 100 players over three introductory meetings. Former Samoa, Tonga and Fiji internationals Henry Tuilagi, Ephraim Taukafa and Sunia Koto, join current Castres and Clermont back-row forwards Alex Tulou and Fritz Lee as new additions to the PRPW Players Board.
The highly-respected group have joined Census Johnston, Pelu Taele-Pavihi and Nemani Nadolo as PRPW representatives in France.
Chief executive Dan Leo confirmed PRPW will hold more meetings in France before the new year, to continue to boost community support networks in the country.
“We're delighted to welcome the five new board members, who will help us continue to grow our presence in France,” said Leo.
“We were able to sign up more than 100 new members in our three meetings in France, and we hope to be able to push that much further as we move around all the regions of the country.
“We initially thought it would be another 12 months before we moved into France, but senior players based there had contacted us about coming across.
“So we've been able to accelerate that timescale.
“We've massively underestimated how many Pacific Islanders are playing rugby in France.
“We thought initially there would be something like 300 but now we believe it could be closer to 500 Pacific Islanders based in France alone.
“We'll get more of a handle on that in the next few months as we spread the word.
“There are players at clubs in the lower leagues that other Pacific Islanders still aren't aware of, and that's one of the issues we're trying to address.
“By building that network of Pacific Islanders, linking them up with one another, they can then foster those kinds of community links which can help them thrive, both on and off the field.”
Dealing with issues of depression were common themes of the meetings in France, and Leo explained how PRPW is already helping players with any potential mental health concerns. The organisation has launched a video-calling counselling service run by staff experienced in working with Pacific Islands communities.
“The first point of call has been to put players from different clubs, different areas and villages in touch with each other,” said Leo.
“But we also have counsellors trained with working with Pacific Islands communities who can hold Skype sessions.
“Our services are run by a group working with Pacific Islanders and Aboriginals in Australia.
“It's not just the players though, this is for their wives too.”
Lyon Rugby Club hosted one of the meetings in France last week, and Leo revealed positive hopes about future backing from French clubs.
“There are encouraging signs with French clubs contacting us and offering support, and that's really important,” said Leo.
“They're realising that this can help them get the best out of their players.”
By Nick Purewal