RAIWALUI READY FOR IC17

The young French star has taken an unusual and intriguing path to arrive at his first International Cup. 
 
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20-year-old French ruckman Jacob Raiwalui has been playing Australian football for little over a year, but looms as one of Les Coqs’ most dangerous players at the International Cup. 
 
With his powerful 196cm and 100kg frame, Raiwalui is a daunting prospect for his opponents, and rugby players across Paris would have collectively breathed a sigh of relief when he converted to the Australian code last year.
 
Raiwalui’s father, Simon, played 39 international tests for Fiji, and has spent time as co-manager of French first division club Stade Français. 
 
However, Raiwalui’s sporting career has taken a different turn.
 
“I was playing rugby in France and one of the coaches, who was Irish, told me to come and try some footy,” he said.
 
“I went to training one night and then played the next weekend.” 
 
Raiwalui played for the Paris Cockatoos as they won the premiership in their first season in the French competition. 
 
After impressing in a one-on-one session with former Sydney Swans star Tadgh Kennelly, Raiwalui was invited to the international draft combine in Dublin last November.
 
He was injured early in the testing process and missed a spot on the AFL Academy trip to Florida, but bounced back quickly to be crowned player of the tournament at the AFL Europe Champions League.
 
France coach Andrew Unsworth said he was excited by Raiwalui’s potential to perform in the tournament conditions.
 
“Being one of our tallest and fastest players, we can’t wait to let him loose on the bigger fields playing 18-a-side footy,” he said.
 
Les Coqs will open their tournament against Fiji at Royal Park on Sunday, but Raiwalui played down the personal significance of the clash.
 
“It’s just like any other country really,” he said.
 
“I have cousins in Fiji, but I can’t really speak the language. I grew up in London and Paris.”
 
Raiwalui was pleased with the progress of the French side in transitioning from the 9-a-side football that they play in Europe.
 
“We were quite happily surprised with the skills and our standards. I think we should cause some trouble against the big teams.”
 
Having earned promotion to Division 1 at this International Cup, exceptional football will be required from Raiwalui and the French side to progress beyond the group stage
 
Watch live @ France vs Fiji

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