Former Fiji international Kunavore dies
November 16, 2012
Fiji and Toulouse star Maleli Kunavore has died © Getty Images
Former Fiji international Maleli Kunavore has died in Suva aged just 29.
Kunavore, a member of the Fiji squad that reached the quarter-finals of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, saw his playing career cut short by a heart condition in 2010 and reports suggest he passed away in hospital having undergone a further operation earlier this week.
The versatile back spent five seasons with French giants Toulouse and shared in their Top 14 final victory over Clermont Auvergne in 2008 and was a member of the side that was beaten by Munster in the final of the Heineken Cup the same year.
Kunavore, who was one of the top try scorers in the Top 14 that same season, is closely related to Fiji 7s player Sailosi Rabonaqica and Clermont's Napolioni Nalaga
A product of the Nadi Muslim Academy, Kunavore began to shine when he represented the Fiji U21 side in 2004. A year later the solid speedster was the top try scorer for the Stallions in the domestic Colonial Cup where he was spotted by former Flying Fijian coach Wayne Pivac and was selected for the national team for the Pacific Nations Cup. That is where he earned his first Test cap and also scored a try to help Fiji defeat Samoa 21-15 in Suva.
In early 2010, Kunavore suffered two major injuries to his left arm and would later undergo a cardiac operation with his retirement following soon after. On behalf of the Fiji Rugby Union, development manager Sale Sorovaki said: "It is so sad to lose a fellow rugby player and at such a young age. Kunavore was a very gifted and talented player and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, may he rest in peace."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter