Dragons Come Shark Fishing
London Welsh, newly promoted to the Aviva Premiership, have clearly been impressed with some of the talent on show from the Navy Sharks this season. Their first commitment of the 2014/2015 season is to compete in the pre season Premiership Rugby Sevens Series. Drawn in pool D, a pool that contains Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and the hosts Newcastle Falcons, London Welsh have invited Watisoni ‘Toots’ Vakalutukali to be part of their squad travelling to the North East.
Toot’s selection is acknowledgement of his burgeoning talent that last season saw him win his first senior cap as well as continue his excellent form as a sevens specialist, whether for his unit side of Commando Logs Regt RM, St Paul’s Pirates (Bristol) or the Navy Sharks. It is the first time that a Navy player has been selected for this prestigious event although followers of Service rugby will be used to seeing Army Sevens players under various club guises. Last season Ray Bishop made a big impression for Bath though I am sure Toots would rather emulate the achievement of Apo Satala who was part of the Gloucester seven that won the competition last year. This year the Army will again be represented and Toots will be alongside Gerhard Wessels who is well known to Navy supporters from both the Army Navy match and as a former captain of the British Army Sevens team.
Toots has certainly shown, when playing for the Sharks, that he has all the attributes to succeed at the higher level. He has a good turn of pace and the required physicality that is now a core component of top sevens rugby. As important though is the way he is able to read the game, a skill that not only makes him very versatile, but is also under valued. Very often the skill he brings are only truly appreciated when he is not on the pitch, as the Sharks found to their cost at Swindon when injury robbed them of Toot’s services in their semi final against Ponty Butchers.
Toots will know a little of what to expect from his London Welsh experience as the Navy Sharks Head Coach, Billy May, will be the assistant coach for the Premiership newcomers. Billy has previous Premiership experience as he was coach of the Harlequins team that won the Middlesex Sevens in 2008 (beating the Army 22-12 in a pulsating final).
The Premiership Rugby Sevens Series starts on 26 July in Cardiff with the second pool on 31 July at Gloucester and Group C at Northampton on 1 August. The Newcastle leg is being held at the Darlington Northern Echo Arena. All matches will be broadcast live on BT Sport. If London Welsh are successful then the finals will be held at The Twickenham Stoop, on Friday 8 August 2014. With Bath again having two Army Sevens players in their ranks the finals could have a significant Service rugby interest. I am sure all followers on Navy Rugby wish Toots the very best in the colours of London Welsh on Saturday.
The full London Welsh squad can be found by clicking here.
Pool D Premiership Rugby Sevens Series Saturday 2 August 2014 (Live on BT Sport, highlights ITV)
London Welsh v Sale Sharks (19:40)
London Welsh v Leicester Tigers (20:10)
London Welsh v Newcastle Falcons (21:30)
Future Sharks fixtures:
Images by Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones