Noumea (AFP)

"You have a potential, do not waste it": the advice in 2008 of the head of the rugby sports section at the Pétro Attiti high school in Nouméa was not in vain. Eleven years later, Sébastien Vahaamahina is one of the leaders of the XV of France at the World Cup in Japan.

"He had an extraordinary physique and was very diligent in training," recalls Jean-Pierre Masseglia, who followed for three years from 2005 to 2008 the young Sebastien, then in preparation for a bachelor's degree in this establishment of Rivière Salée, a popular district north of Nouméa.

"The rugby 7 sports section involved three hours of training per week, on a voluntary basis, it worked well in the team, the atmosphere was multiethnic and dynamic," adds the physical education teacher.

Colossus over 2 meters, Sebastian was passionate about the oval balloon as a teenager.

"At the age of 14, he accompanied his little brother, Daniel, who is one year younger, in rugby, and they were inseparable, so Sébastien also got involved," said his mother Katalina, from Wallis and Futuna, and restive to "this violent sport".

Born in 1991, Sébastien is the penultimate of six siblings. "It was the most turbulent, he kept moving, climbing trees, tobogganing with banana trunks on the steep path to the house," says Katalina, who is still making blood. ink every game. "I'm always afraid he's hurting himself."

At the Stade de Rivière Salée, the robust "tama" (Wallisian guy, ed) is not immune to the eye of Bruno Salvai, technical adviser of the rugby league of New Caledonia.

-Good ability to move'-

"Not only was he a tall man, but he had a good ability to move, a wide stride, high knees," he says. Qualities acquired by Sébastien on the volleyball courts he practiced before rugby.

Aware of the potential of the player who then pillar, Bruno Salvai incite in 2007 this guy, "erased and silent" to take a license and enroll in a club. It will be the Rugby Club of Mont-Dore, where Daniel plays.

"He did several advanced courses during the school holidays and in September 2008, he won his first selection for a regional rugby 7 tournament that was taking place in Wallis and Futuna," recalls Bruno Salvai, former player at Tahiti then in New Caledonia.

Sébastien Vahaamahina's career is accelerating. Not yet major, he participates in Brive at the Inter-Committee Challenge of the Under 18s. This time, it is Loïc Van der Linden, then in charge of the detection of the young players in CA Brive, which detects the capacities of the imposing Oceanian. It will take the direction of Corrèze, 17,000 km from Nouméa ...

"Brive offered him a contract with a double project, school and sport.I warned them about the difficulties of adaptation, because of the distance, the players Caledonian.Many have broken teeth, but Sebastien was going to be well taken in hand, "says Bruno Salvai.

"Mom did not want him to go away ..."

At the family home of Vahaamahina in La Tamoa, about twenty kilometers from Nouméa, one oscillates then between sadness and pride. "Mom did not want him to leave so young, but it was my brother's dream, he was determined," recalls his sister Maria.

It will be Brive, until 2011, then Perpignan before the arrival in Clermont in 2014.

In Japan, where Sebastien will participate in his first World Cup, Maria predicts that "it will not be easy against Argentina" on Saturday. "We have communicated recently, he is zen, ready.He is waiting so much," she says with admiration.

Responsible for a rugby school for children, she prepares the next generation. At 8, his son is the unconditional fan of his "uncle". "He's also called Sebastien, rugby since the age of four and the best territorial player in his class, with only one thing in mind: to replace my brother later," warns Maria.

© 2019 AFP