Planet Sport spoke to USA Rugby international, Andrew Durutalo, about the rise of the sport in America and which greats from the past he'd love to play alongside! Read our exclusive. . .
Where does your love for Rugby come from?
I was born in New York but both of my parents are Fijian and most of my time at high school was in Fiji. So I picked up the game whilst I was studying and it was one of those things where everybody played it, so it was hard not to get into it. There is a lot of good rugby players and it’s very competitive to make it back in Fiji, I did find it difficult early on in my career to stand out. I was very fortunate to get the opportunity.
If you hadn’t made it in professional rugby what would your plan B career have been?
I probably would have become a lawyer, both of my parents and also siblings are academics so I would have just followed in their footsteps, finished school and done my Masters.
How much have you enjoyed representing the US at senior level, happy with the path you took? Because you were going the way of Fiji early on in your career?
I am, I did represent Fiji when I was younger and went up through the age groups, people just assumed that I would go on to the national team but USA offered me the opportunity first, so I took it with both hands. I have never regretted representing the United States for a minute and I’m enjoying it right now.
In your opinion, is the future of Rugby in the US looking strong, to the point where kids at school are drawn to it, not just the typical American sports?
I think it is, especially since the Olympics, it has had a big impact. A lot of NFL players are actually starting to realise the dream of representing the United States at an Olympics. A lot of people don’t know but Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the US, along with Lacrosse.
If you could line up alongside any player from the past or present of elite rugby, who would you choose?
I think George Smith at his peak, for the Wallabies and Neil Back would have been a good one. Obviously Ritchie McCaw because he is an all-round rugby player and he’s won World Cups. Even Jason Robinson, Josh Lewsey and Mike Catt.
Andrew, you are open about your personal faith, how did you come to know Jesus for yourself?
I have grown up in a Christian home and so I got to know Jesus as a young kid, a lot of my faith today is because of what was instilled in me back then. Playing at this level now, I feel like my personal relationship with God is stronger and I rely on that. My achievements are because of my faith in God but day to day there are stresses and pressures, so it’s about knowing that there’s something greater than myself.
Is it tough to be a follower of Jesus in elite rugby, with the media, the lifestyle and everyone watching what you do?
Yes it is, being a professional athlete, there are temptations along the way and with social media and the fans it’s even greater. A lot of my personal stuff I keep to myself and I try to be the best role model that I can be for those around me. I see my career as a way of giving back to God, for the achievements that he has given me. A big part of that is my faith but I’m not a perfect Christian.