YAMAGATA, Japan (Reuters) - After waiting four years to prove himself on rugby’s largest stage, Samoa flanker Piula Fa’asalele’s World Cup hopes almost came to a sudden end last month when he broke his arm while captaining the team against the United States.
Yet the 31-year-old, who missed the 2015 tournament due to a knee injury, knew he had just enough time to recover and be available for their opening Pool A match against Russia in Kumagaya on Sept. 24.
“I wouldn’t say it’s 100% yet but we’re getting there,” he told reporters on Thursday of the injury that happened on Aug. 3 during a Pacific Nations Cup match.
“I would say I’m at 80% and it’s a work in progress but hopefully by the end of the week we’ll be up to 100%.
“There’s always a bit of doubt in your head but that’s normal when you’re coming back. But I’m pretty confident I’ll be ready for selection.”
His confidence, he said, comes from his attitude of just accepting what happens in his sporting life without dwelling on setbacks.
That was what inspired him four years ago when he missed the World Cup and set his sights on being in Japan and he came to a similar conclusion six weeks ago.
“When it happened, it happened,” he said.
“My first thoughts were ‘I’m alive, which I’m happy about, and if I can get there (to the World Cup), I’ll get there, and if not, well, there’s more to life than rugby’.”
It is a message that he hopes will filter through to other players to help them recognise that mental health issues can affect elite athletes as much as anyone else.
“There’s a lot of pressure in the game, especially for the young ones coming through,” he said.
“We’ve got guys coming through who are about to make it but then they don’t because of injury.
“A lot of guys go through phases in life when they might not get selected so there’s a lot of things around mental health that can push us out of the game that we should be aware of.
“Rugby is a team sport, so if you know your brother is there next to you, supporting you, or just checking up on you, saying ‘are you all right, brother? I’m here to talk to you’, then that could turn life around for someone.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Sapporo, Japan; Editing by Toby Davis