Ratu Naulago: Soldier, Prem 7s Breakout, Rugby League Star


For the past eight years, the Premiership 7s has served as a wonderful building block to young players' careers in England. 

The two-day tournament at Northampton's Franklin's Gardens has helped propel the careers of more than 45 international test players, including Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, and America's own Blaine Scully. 

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Every year, someone emerges from the Prem 7s onto everyone's radar, and 2019 should prove to be no different. 

Here's the story behind one of last year's breakout players:

Ratu Naulago

It's been quite the journey for Ratu Naulago. Ten years ago, he hopped on a plane to leave his native Fiji for the British Army, and now he's completed his first year of professional rugby in the U.K.

But not the kind of rugby they play much in Fiji. Naulago was scouted by executives from Hull F.C.'s rugby league after his scintillating performance at last year's Premiership 7s turned heads. 

Now, one year later, Naulago is regarded as one of the finest league players in England, and his 15 tries in 21 matches prove the winger has the knack for scoring.  

He says the inspiration to move to England came from his father. 

"My dad wanted me to join the Army as there’s a bit of history between the Fijians and part of the Commonwealth and the British Army," Naulago told the Hull Daily Mail U.K. "I flew over from Fiji in January 2009. It was winter. I came to join the Army about 2011... It was really, really shocking for me as back home it was the summer and over 33 degrees and here it was about minus 10."

Naulago wanted to feel less of an outsider, and more like a native in his new home, so he studied up on what it's like to be British.

"I tried to blend in well with British culture as it is a bit historic as well and I’d been reading the book on it all. I tried to blend in properly and know more about the British culture and I really got into it."

Shortly after enlisting in the Army as a mortarman in the Yorkshire Regiment first battalion, the big Fijian was relocated to Cyprus, where he would also make a side venture to Afghanistan. 

Through the army, he found its rugby team and finds his time on the pitch with his brothers to be some of his most favorite memories. 

After playing at Twickenham in the annual Babock Trophy match, the British Army vs the British Navy, Ratu was asked by the Saracens if he'd like to play as a guest player for their team in the upcoming Premiership 7s. 

He took the opportunity and ran with it. For many tries. His Saracens team won the whole tournament, and afterward a man named Lee Radford presented Naulago with an offer to come to try out for Hull FC's premier rugby league side. 

“Opportunity comes once in a lifetime so as soon as I got the opportunity from Radders I knew this was my opportunity so I took it seriously and showed him I’d grab it,” he said. 

His 12-year contract with the British Army still has four years remaining on it, but the Armed Forces have been kind enough to let him put his duty on hold to pursue his rugby dreams. 

Perhaps one day he'll follow in the footsteps of other rugby league players such as Jason Robinson, Andy Farrell, and Ben Te'o and try his hand at rugby union in England. 

For now, he's just grateful for the opportunity to be where he is, and determined to keep working hard so that he can stay there. 

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