Rauluni taking a break

Fiji captain Mosese Rauluni will take next year off from international duty after leading his country on their greatest ever World Cup campaign.

The Saracens scrum-half promised his pregnant wife he would step down from Test rugby in order to spend the summer with the family and November with his club.

It is a wrench for Rauluni, who was inspirational in Fiji’s extraordinary World Cup campaign and played the match of his life in Sunday’s 37-20 quarter-final defeat to South Africa.

“I promised my wife I wouldn’t play for Fiji next year or during the off-season from Saracens. She has made a lot of sacrifices with me going away every year,” said Rauluni.

“When you play rugby it is full on and if I don’t take a break now I won’t have one until the middle of 2008.”

Rauluni, who is also set to miss the Pacific Islanders tour next year, has not officially retired from international rugby but did admit he will have to evaluate where he stands after the international break.

“Every time I play for Fiji I feel a lot happier but you only borrow the jersey and the time will come when I know it’s right to step aside,” said Rauluni.

“We’ll see what happens after my break but priorities do change.”

Sadly for Fiji, Rauluni will not be missing much Test rugby next year. The Fijians currently have just two fixtures against top-tier opposition – possibly Ireland and Argentina – pencilled in for 2008.

As Fiji prepared to return home, head coach Ilie Tabua repeated his plea for the International Rugby Board to help arrange more games against senior opposition.

On the field, Fiji made a strong case. They reached the quarter-finals for the first time in 20 years with three pool victories, including a 38-34 win over Wales.

And they gave new tournament favourites South Africa a huge scare, surging from 20-6 down to draw level with just 20 minutes remaining.

Eventually, the Springboks’ forward power proved the difference but Tabua is convinced that, with more matches against the major nations, Fiji could compete up front as fiercely as they do in the backs.

“We only get two Test matches next year. We need to either be introduced into a competition (like the Super 14) or get more Test match games with tier one nations,” said Tabua.

“The game is won up front. Hopefully now we can develop our tight five for 2011.

“One-on-one our players can beat anybody but winning the ball at the breakdown and recycling possession is an area we have to improve in and be competitive.”

Fiji’s argument was backed by South Africa coach Jake White and Australia coach John Connolly, who believes entry to the Super 14 is the best route for all three island nations.

Connolly also called on the IRB to reject the proposal to cut the number of competing teams at the 2011 World Cup from 20 to 16.

“I think it would be great shame if we went back to 16 teams. In 1987 we had 16 teams and I don’t know why we would go back to it,” said Connolly.

“We have seen the incredible emergence of the three island nations, we have seen Argentina’s performance, Georgia’s performance.

“The world of rugby is changing. The big thing to come out of this World Cup is that the IRB and particularly SANZAR need to help the three island nations get into the Super 14 competition.

“Also where do Argentina go – the Six Nations or the Tri-Nations? In terms of world rugby, these are things that need to be answered, not tomorrow but today.”

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