"We practice touch rugby," Sikivou said, grinning, "and we don't like to be touched."
"Well, your speed is overwhelming," Donelli replied, "and your whole side is in top shape." Donelli is in pretty good shape himself, at least now. He did not mention that in June of 1969 a cardiologist friend discovered a hole between two chambers of his heart. Donelli was 32 then, and the doctor gave him 10 years without an operation. That wasn't long enough to play rugby, he decided, and eight weeks later he was wearing a Teflon patch in his heart. Two months after that he was playing the game again, which tells you something about rugby men.
Rugby affairs are usually pretty raucous, but when dinner began the room was curiously quiet. The New Yorkers seemed almost embarrassed at having won. Some apologized for the weather. Few of the Fijians spoke: many sat with their heads down and ate little; some still wore their overcoats. They obviously were tired from their London flight the previous day. Finally, someone asked the Fijians to sing, a talent for which they are famous throughout the rugby world. The Fijians rose reluctantly from their chairs, a little self-conscious. They began softly. Their voices were unexpectedly sweet, and as they sang of home, 8,000 miles away, they smiled wanly and their voices rose in harmony. They had been away from Fiji for two months. In that time Captain Toga's wife had given birth to their first child, a son. The Fijians were clearly homesick—Kiniviliame Nalatu, Setareki Tamanivalu, who looks like a king, and all the rest—and as they began a song called Isalei their smiles grew wider and some swung their heads to its rhythms. Isalei, one of them said, meant farewell.