Nusi Tukuafu – invaluable lessons learned from Premiership Rugby Scholarships programme
Coaching rugby in America’s 50th state, the Islands of Aloha, Nusi Tukuafu admits that they have a fairly blinkered view of the sport in Hawaii.
Heavily influenced by the styles of the All Blacks, the Wallabies and those of the Pacific Island sides, Tukuafu notes that Hawaiian rugby is often dominated by the search for power and pace. But when the 45-year-old – who coaches the Kahuku High School boys’ and girls’ teams – got the chance to travel to England as part of a Premiership Rugby scholarship programme in March, he was faced with a whole new ball game. “The biggest thing for me was to learn what they’re doing in the northern hemisphere and how their style of play is different,” he said. “When you go to England, their type is a little bit more crisp as far as the type of game. “The Islanders will always play the smash-mouth game, a little more physical, whereas over there it’s more playing the ball. “There’s more strategy – I’m not saying that the Pacific Islanders’ style of play is bad, let’s just say it’s more involved.”
Tukuafu was one of 14 coaches that travelled across the pond in March as part of a ground-breaking initiative run by Premiership Rugby in partnership with the Friends of the British Council and USA Rugby that aims to grow the sport in the US. There, the scholars received coaching workshops from some of England’s biggest club sides, and toured some of the nation’s most famous rugby landmarks. And Tukuafu – who himself played the game at college level in Utah – left the UK brimming with ideas immediately realised upon his return to Kahuku. “It’s opened my mind up to other options, not just the physical play,” he said. “Here in Hawaii we have big kids, physical kids and it opened my eyes to think ‘hey, instead of being faster and stronger, why don’t we be more knowledgeable on how to play the ball, how to get the ball over the line?’ “It’s something that I’d push my players to apply for, and also my coaches so that they can go and experience it; and when you go, come back with something. “That way you can share the knowledge that you learned, as I shared what I learned. Go steal the fire and then come back and make sure that everybody in the village has it.”