Minister for Youth and Sports

Address at the Opening of the Oceania Rugby Welcome Reception at the Grand Pacific Hotel on 7 November 2018 at 7:00 p.m.

• Oceania and Fiji Rugby Board members and officials
• Teams
• Invited Guests
• Ladies and Gentlemen

Bula vinaka, Namaste, Salaam aleikum and a very Good evening to you all

I am delighted to welcome you once again to Fiji on the eve of the Oceania Sevens Championships.

As you know Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fijian Government has pledged its commitment to hosting the Oceania Rugby Championships for three years commencing last year. This is a true reflection of the commitment of the Government to develop sports in our country and in our region with support from Oceania Rugby whose commitment, dedication and work done behind the scenes makes this event happen and happen successfully.

You have continued to provide assistance and support in representing the interests of your members to promote rugby across the region.

You have taken responsibility in addressing one of the major issues faced on our playing fields - the risk of injury. Through your efforts, your medical officials have been trained to World Rugby standards and this is good news for our players.

We also recognise the efforts of World Rugby to address the challenges facing Tier Two and Tier Three nations, our developing rugby nations, and World Rugby’s support for the Oceania Sevens Championships.

I am delighted at the ongoing partnership between Oceania Rugby and the UN Women promoting women’s equal participation in community rugby 7s events. This is indeed and exciting initiative for rugby within the region.

Sport is not just a simple game, it is much more than that. It symbolises a dream to an individual, and to a team. Sport signifies renewal, as well as change. It brings people together as athletes and spectators; it promotes nation building, encourages life-long participation in physical activity and a healthy lifestyle for all.

Sports play an important role in Oceania. It provides young people with the right skills, mindsets and values such as honesty, teamwork, fair play, respect, adherence to rules, discipline, perseverance, resilience and a strong sense of purpose.

This week we are united in celebrating another year of Oceania Sevens and let’s all approach it with a carnival atmosphere. So when you play this week, let us lead by playing unified and by living unified.

Ladies and gentlemen, this evening offers us a rare opportunity to mingle; it offers a chance to get to know the opponent. You may be the greatest of rivals on the field, but off it, you become the best of friends; so this reception is to be taken as neutral territory.

This tournament has nonetheless brought to light the immense pool of talent which is readily available in the Pacific. I would therefore like to show my appreciation to the talented young men and women who will be participating in this annual tournament. I urge you to continue to strive for the best in your sporting aspirations and to never lose sight of your goals.

Keep the faith knowing that in time you will get there if you remain focused and on track, that's the difference between those who succeed and those who fail.

To the respective teams, I wish you all the best for the tournament. Play hard but fair.

I would like to pay tribute to the sponsors who are supporting this event, including the unwavering support of the Fijian Government. I thank the volunteers who make it happen and to the spectators who will enjoy the show.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I look forward to seeing you at the ANZ Stadium. Come and see the best that Oceania rugby has to offer.

I wish you all the best and a great evening and more importantly a great tournament in the coming days.

Vinaka Vakalevu.