Manu Samoa great Peter Fatialofa dies
November 6, 2013
Peter Fatialofa cools down © Getty Images

Former Manu Samoa captain Peter Fatialofa has died in Samoa, aged 54. The prop, nicknamed "Fats", captained Samoa at Rugby World Cup 1991, when the side famously beat Wales at Cardiff Arms Park.

He won 34 caps for Samoa and played 72 games for Auckland, for whom he was part of the side's eight-year Ranfurly Shield reign from 1985. He was a stalwart of the Ponsonby club, and his weight during his playing days was recorded at 115kg - making him a big man in that era.

He retired from playing in 1996 and returned to his furniture-moving business. It was an urban legend that with his strength he was able to shift pianos single-handedly.

He was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to rugby, in 1996.

"He was the ultimate team man," Auckland Rugby Union board member and former team-mate Gary Whetton said. ""On the field he was huge and off the field such a gentleman. I am so sad for Anne and his family. We have all lost a brilliant man."

Whetton recalls Fatialofa was given the important role of "Keeper of the Shield".

"When we won the Ranfurly Shield in 1985, 'Fats' was charged as being the Keeper of the Shield. It was his job to keep it safe, to make sure it came on the road with us. He had to know where it was at all times, and I think a lot of those times it was at his house."

Fatialofa's status in Samoa is legendary, and his service to Samoan rugby continued to the end as as he was coaching Soamoa's women's rugby team (Manu Sina) in their quest to play at the 2014 Rugby World Cup in France.

The Manu Samoa team, due to play Ireland in Dublin this weekend, paid tribute to Fatialofa on their Facebook page. "Condolences to Mr. Papali'itele Fatialofa's family and friends and all the fans of Manu Samoa for the passing of this true legend of Samoas national game. Fa'afetai lava (thank you) for the great memories."

© AAP with ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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