Rugby World Mourns Samoan Star After He Jumps Into A River In France

Updated On May 10, 2022 by Landon Wheeler

Kelly MeafuaSummary

  • Samoan Rugby Star Kelly Meafua dies at 32
  • Meafua jumped off a bridge in France into a river
  • Teammate Christopher Vaotoa tried to save him but did not succeed

Samoan rugby sensation Kelly Meafua died after jumping off the Pont-Vieux bridge into the freezing river Tarn, in France on 6 May 2022, shocking fans. The 32-year-old flanker’s body was recovered the next day.

The incident happened after Meafua, and his Montauban teammates won against Narbonne in the French Pro D2 season finals and were celebrating the victory.

Meafua’s teammate Christopher Vaotoa had tried to save him unsuccessfully and was hospitalized for hypothermia.

Former Coaches Remember Meafua

Todd Louden, Meafua’s former coach at West Harbour, lamented his untimely death. The flanker was a tough player with an infectious smile, Louden said. Despite him being dreaded for being a bone-crunching ball carrier, everyone wished for a chance to play with Meafua, who commanded attention when he was playing.

Australia’s Rugby Union Players Association (ARUPA) CEO Justin Harrison referred to him as a beautiful young man gone too soon. Harrison appreciated Meafua as an honest and upright player, committed to providing for his family. The CEO’s association with the deceased player went back to 2015 when Meafua played for Narbonne. Besides Harrison, Meafua had trained under coach Chris Whitaker.

Hailing from Samoa’s Sala’ilua and Lalomauga villages, Meafua had moved to Auckland, New Zealand in his teens. After featuring in Samoa’s World Rugby Sevens Series in 2013, he moved to Australia to play for West Harbor and then shifted base to France to play for Narbonne in the Pro D2 in 2015. He had played in the Global Tens tournament held in Brisbane in 2018, narrowly missing the coveted Ken Catchpole medal by one vote.

Dubbed as the ‘smiling assassin’, Meafua was known for his aggressive style on-field and a genial temperament off it. He played for Australia’s West Harbor and the Greater Sydney Rams during the National Rugby Championship from 2014 to 2018. Meafua was also a part of the New South Wales Waratahs’ extended training squad. Later, he played for French clubs Narbonne, Béziers, and more recently, Montauban.

Sports Clubs Post Tributes for Meafua

The Union Sportive Montauban (U.S.M.) Sapiac club posted a tribute on its website, mourning Meafua’s demise and extending sympathy to his family, fans, and peers. The Pacific Rugby Welfare (PRW) also expressed its shock and sadness at the news.

U.S.M. Sapiac reported that it had suspended all training in the wake of the unfortunate event. The club added that Vaotoa was safe and was discharged from the hospital.

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