Oh yes, the number 8 position, the only position that does not have an actual English name. It does however have its own Fijian pronunciation which is far more sophisticated, “Naba Walu”. For our non Fijian readers, probably best google it.
Some of the number 8’s we saw from 2000-2010 include Jone Qovu, Koli Sewabu and Alivereti Doviverata. Though most number 8’s can float between the back of the scrum and flanker, we’ve focused on players who were number 8’s first.
All our top player lists are judged on performances at the highest club and representative levels. They include players who are Fijian Born, identify as Fijian or partly Fijian through heritage.
Here’s our top 6 Fijian Number 8’s from the decade 2010-2019.
6. Sisa Koyamaibole (2010-2018)
Big Sisa Koyamaibole’s career started back in 2001 for the Fiji Sevens side. Over the course of the next 16 years he would play with numerous clubs around the world including Japans Toyota Shokki Shuttles, Taranaki in New Zealand, Petrarca Padova of Italy and a host of French clubs including Toulon, Sale, Lyon, Bordeaux and Brive.
He played in three World Cups from 2003-2011 and was a part of the combined Pacific Islands sides from 2003-2008. He was known for his aggression both with and without the ball. Sisa will go down as one of Fiji’s best ever number 8’s but comes in at number 6 on our list due to most of his best work being done pre-2010.
5. Sakiusa Matadigo (2010-2019)
Beginning his career back in 2005, Suva native Sakiusa Matadigo first appeared for Fiji as a Sevens player playing alongside the likes of Waisale Serevi and Marika Vunibaka. He size, skill and athleticism were hard to ignore and was promptly picked up by French club Saracens for the 2007 season.
Since 2010 Matadigo has served several clubs including Montpellier, Racing Metro, Lyon and finally SOC Chambery. He’s worn the white of Fiji on over 22 occasions including the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.
4. Isireli Naisarani (2016-2019)
Isi Naisarani first appeared in top grade rugby for the Western Force in 2017, playing in 15 games and matching that feat in 2018 with the ACT Brumbies. Best known for his strong carries and tackle breaking abilities.
2019 was his finest season yet, playing 13 games for the Melbourne Rebels and nailing down the starting number 8 spot for the Wallabies and earning his spot at the Japan RWC.
3. Netani Talei (2010-2017)
Netani Edward Talei first appeared for Fiji in 2006, helping Fiji in a tight match over Samoa 23-20.
He has represented Fiji 33 times including the 2007, 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups. Known for his aggression and leadership qualities, Talei was a staple in the Fijian forward pack for the better part of the decade.
His club career included stints with Doncaster, Worcester, Edinburgh, Newport and Harlequins. Netani retired in 2017 due to medical recommendation.
Before we finish our list, we would like to mention Mosese Voka and Johnny Dyer who were both considered.
2. Nathan Hughes (2011-2019)
Former Wasps and England number 8 Nathan Hughes was scouted by New Zealand’s Kelston’s Boys High School on a tour to Fiji in 2008. He has played for Mitre 10 side Auckland from 2011-2013 and was named vice captain of the Fiji Warriors side in 2012, skippered by Nemani Nadolo.
In 2013 he signed with English side Wasps where he played 120 games up until 2019 and is now with the Bristol Bears. Hughes has also represented England in 16 tests and will surely feature for the Red Roses over the coming years.Embed from Getty Images
1.Viliame Mata (2016-2019)
Endinburgh and Fiji number 8 Bill Mata makes the list at number 1 due to an impressive four years where he has gone from Sevens player to one of the best players in his position.
Mata began his career as a Sevens player starting in 2013 and ultimately winning Gold at the Rio Olympics for Fiji. He was quickly snapped up by Scottish heavyweights Edinburgh and has progressed into a fine forward boasting an impressive arsenal of speed, tackle breaking ability, punishing defense and an unbelievable offload.
To add to his RWC 2019 selection and Gold Medal, Mata was awarded the 2018/2019 Guiness Pro 14 players player of the season award.
Join in the conversation
That concludes our list of top 6 Fijian number 8’s for the decade 2010-2019. Tell us what you think. Have we missed anyone? Join in the conversation in the comments below and tell us what your list would look like.