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From Soccer to Rugby

As the Standard Chartered Singapore Sevens tournament got underway, UrbanWire sat down for an exclusive one-on-one with Amasio Valence, a member of the New Zealand team and one of the tournament’s stars.

The Amasio Valence Fact File
Born 12th May 1979
Nickname Position
Position Flyhalf
Weight & Height   93kg; 1.80m
Religion Christian

People who had a major influence on his rugby career

He is a player he looks up to Nick Farr-Jones

He is a player he’d love to play alongside

Waisale Serevi
Favorite Actor/Actress Mel Gibson/ Julia Roberts
Favorite Movie    Braveheart
The person he’d most like to meet Lord Jesus

A native of Fiji, Amasio Valence was born in the touristy town of Nadi. Surprisingly, his chosen sport was utterly different from the rest of his family members. While the 24-year-old played rugby, his entire family enjoyed soccer.

“My dad used to play for his club in Fiji and I used to go along and watch him and all my family played soccer except for me,” the 1.8m, 93kg flyhalf recounts. “My brother just got named in the Fiji National [soccer] squad, so he’s playing for Fiji as well, and that’s a good achievement for him.”

With such an impressive family background in soccer, one would expect Valence to have picked up some skills.

“Oh I’m useless, bro. I can play a bit of soccer but I am not a good player at all,” he says, figuring his skills “were better used in rugby than in soccer.”

But whatever soccer “skills” he has, they certainly earned Valence a reputation with fellow teammate and All-Blacks legend Eric Rush, who named him one of his favorite “actors” of all time.

“Did he say that?” laughs Valence. “I think it’s because I come from a soccer background and when I get touched, I just fall down like one of those soccer players, so that’s why I am like that and that’s why he thinks I am an actor.”

Valence on England

Fortunately, he did pick up some kicking skills from soccer, which makes him the natural choice to take the kicks for the New Zealand Sevens squad.

But what does he think of Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked England to the Rugby World Cup last year?

“England made it boring [with] Johnny Wilkinson just kicking the bloody thing away,” said Valence, who was on the national sevens team that brought home the gold in the 2002 Commonwealth Games. “We tend to keep the ball and do more running in our rugby and that didn’t help during the World Cup so in saying that, England played really well in the World Cup and deserved to win. They used their head.”

Going Back To His Roots

While he did not catch the Singapore-Japan soccer match as he “went out to town,” he was an avid Manchester United fan.

“I’m a big Man U fan, aye, but they are not doing too well at the moment,” said Valence. “I used to like Man U because of David Beckham, but he’s gone now, so I’m with Real Madrid.”

So, while still talking about loyalty, does Valence think it odd for him to go up against the Fijians in rugby, being Fijian, after all?

“At first I didn’t know what to expect, aye. My 1st match against them was at the Commonwealth Games in ’98… I was still in school then so I didn’t know what to expect. The 1st time I went out, I just said, ‘Aw I’m just going to give it my best and play [against Fiji] and show them I’m good enough not just for them; but to put on a black jersey.’ But right now, I just go on and try to tackle someone who comes towards me.”

Incidentally, in the Plate finals, Valence scored a fantastic try a minute into the second half, but New Zealand ended up losing 15-19.

Family Man

Valence has never forgotten his Fijian roots. He loves Fijian lovo Food and considers his hometown his favorite holiday destination. If he were made prime minister of New Zealand for a day, he would get himself a free trip to Fiji. His family back there has always supported him, and he promises to support his only child if she wants to play professional sports.

“She’ll probably want to play netball or golf or something,” said the father. “She can choose whatever she wants and I will back her up.”

But what would happen if he had a son who wanted to play soccer?

“I’ll kick his butt if he plays soccer! He has to come and play rugby! I’ll make sure I’ll lock him in his room and punch him up!” he jests before going on to express his “hope [his son will] play rugby”. But like he would for his daughter, he promises to back his son up “no matter what.”

Unfortunately for Valence and the sevens team—his second family—they were edged out by Argentina, 7-12, in the group stages and lost to France, 17-20, in the Cup quarterfinals. Both teams ironically come from soccer-dominated countries. So, how impressed is Valence with the Argentines, especially since they had beaten New Zealand in L.A. and Hong Kong?

“The Argentinians have been playing well and they’re really fast followers. They’re improving all the time and that shows it wasn’t a fluke winning the L.A. sevens.”

In parting, what is Valence’s impression of the “weaker” men, those who play soccer?

“They are just a little bit softer, I reckon, aye. That’s why I didn’t wanted to play soccer.”



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