Latu Jersey’s first pro

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The friendly Tongan, who was man of the match in Jersey’s decisive 38-13 Siam Cup win in Guernsey less than a fortnight ago, met with Immigration officials on Wednesday afternoon, and in what was described by club president David Lapidus as ‘a very helpful meeting’, was given a work permit until August.

After that, from September, he will be classified as a professional rugby player.

‘It helped that Tonga is still part of the Commonwealth,’ said Lapidus, ‘but can I stress that the Rugby Club won’t pay him.

We hope that that will come from outside sponsors, although he will have to have a contract with the club.

‘It was what Latu wanted – I went with him to Immigration – and afterwards he had such a smile on his face, it was almost infectious.’ After explaining that Maka’afi was ‘looking forward to a Jersey summer’ Lapidus explained that the serious side of the club’s decision is to push for promotion out of London South II next season.

‘We finished third this year, and if we’d have won a few more games before Christmas, we would have been promoted.

I was at the Guildford game, when we played them away, for example, and it was frustrating because it was ours for the taking.’ Nathan Kemp, the New Zealander with both Scottish and English ancestry, who was pack leader at the Siam Cup, has already played his first game of rugby back in New Zealand, for his club side Manawatu.

Next month he will be taking part in trials for New Zealand’s national Maori team.

He, too, may at some stage come back to the Island; but while most supporters of rugby will be pleased for Immigration’s decision to let Maka’afi stay, the Guernsey Ist team players won’t be too happy.

‘Latu’s permit will take him right up to next year’s Siam,’ said Lapidus.

‘And next year we play it in Jersey.’

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