Naivalu's Stade Francais back at home after 'tough' Covid experience

Paris (AFP) –


Australia winger Sefa Naivalu said it was a difficult period as Stade Francais recorded a wave of coronavirus cases in August ahead of their first home game of the Top 14 season against Bayonne on Friday.

Parisian players suffered lung damage after a reported 25 squad members contracted Covid-19 during the summer leading to the postponement of their opening match of the campaign against Bordeaux-Begles.

"We didn't expect that to happen. It was a pretty tough situation," Naivalu told AFP this week.

"Everyone is fine now. Things will get better. It's a long season but we've still managed to get everyone on board and on the same page," he added.

Fijian-born Naivalu, 28, who made the last of his Wallabies appearances in November 2018 before heading to the French capital last autumn, was excluded from Dave Rennie's squad for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup and The Rugby Championship.

"One hundred percent I still want to play for Australia," said Naivalu. "It was always the team I wanted to play for when I was young."

"If I get the chance to go back and play I'll take it, I'll take every chance," he added.

The former Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds three-quarter,

Naivalu, who shares lifts to training with Wallabies hooker Tolu Latu, has scored three tries in 10 matches for his new side.

"If you see space in Super Rugby, you take it straight away or within a second it's closed, you see it you have to take it," Naivalu said.

"Sometimes I want to do it here, I'm getting the feel of Top 14 games and I'm starting to adjust and know what the pace is like," he added.

- Quesada's culture -

Stade Francais were bottom of the Top 14 when last term was stopped in April due to the virus pandemic after a traumtatic start to the season which saw former South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer resign in November, days after Naivalu had landed in Paris.

Ex-Argentina fly-half Gonzalo Quesada has returned to Stade Jean-Bouin after a four-year spell between 2013-2017 where we won the league title and the European Challenge Cup.

"I didn't get to know the person (Meyer) but I heard stories and I think at the time we didn't have a culture in the team," Naivalu said.

"Now with Gonzalo we have a good culture, we've built it since day one when he arrived," he added.

Elsewhere this weekend, Bordeaux-Begles' trip to Lyon has been moved to Monday after the hosts recorded positive coronavirus tests earlier in the week.

On Sunday, South Africa Rugby World Cup winner Eben Etzebeth could make his return from a rib injury as Toulon head to Toulouse a week after the record 20-time league winners were knocked out of the European Champions Cup semi-finals.

Fixtures (all times GMT)


Brive v Pau (1800), Stade Francais v Bayonne (1845)


Clermont v Agen, La Rochelle v Racing 92 (both 1615)


Montpellier v Castres (1700), Toulouse v Toulon (1900)


Lyon v Bordeaux-Begles (1845)