Cousins Nadolo, Kuridrani face off at RWC

As youngsters, Nemani Nadolo and Tevita Kuridrani used to head down to the village beach on Fiji’s Coral Coast during the school holidays and mess around with a rugby ball.

Kuridrani, the younger of the cousins by three years, remembers those times fondly.

“He was always big – the biggest in the family,” he recalled on Tuesday about his games with a 13-year-old Nadolo on the beaches of Namatakula.

“We were always competing against each other.”

The stage will be very different more than a decade on.

Nadolo on Wednesday will run out in the white of Fiji and Kuridrani in the green and gold of Australia for a Rugby World Cup match in front of 70,000 people at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

“I’ve had a few chats with Nemani earlier in the week,” Kuridrani said.

“Just talking about how proud the family are back home, and for us to be here playing against each other on a big stage. Excited.”

They could easily have wound up playing on the same side.

Both were born in Fiji and emigrated to Queensland in Australia, Nadolo at the age of three and Kuridrani at 16. They both played for Australia under-20s.

Nadolo’s early career didn’t progress as planned, and he wasn’t picked by the senior Australia team.

He ended up drifting, turning out for clubs in England, France and Japan before emerging as a star winger at the Canterbury-based Crusaders since 2014.

By then, Nadolo had pledged his allegiance to the Fiji national team.

Kuridrani, on the other hand, hasn’t left Australia.

The centre was snapped up by the Brumbies in 2012, made his test debut for Australia the following year, and has missed only two games for the Wallabies since.

The cousins have crossed paths in Super Rugby games but never before at international level.

Kuridrani is wary of the threat of his big cousin, who stands at 1.94m, weighs almost 128kg and was the top try-scorer in Super Rugby in 2014.

“Very dangerous with the ball in hand,” was Kuridrani’s view of the man who scored Fiji’s try in its 35-11 win over England on Friday in the opening game of the tournament.

Given his heritage, Kuridrani has the inside track on the key to stopping the Flying Fijians.

“It’s just about trying to stick to our game plan and not trying to play their game,” he said, “because they are very dangerous when they start playing unstructured”.

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