England’s loss to Wales 25-28 has literally consigned Fiji’s chances of reaching the quarterfinals to the ash-heap putting the Red Dragons on nine points leading in the Pool A points table equaling the Wallabies.
The English have moved down to third position with six points after gaining a point from the loss but with two matches on hand with the one against Uruguay easy pickings for a bonus point win will put them in good stead for a place in the last eight.
Australia have two matches to play and a win from either England or Wales will put them in the driving seat to lead the pool but losses to both British sides and no bonus point may see them bundled out of the tournament as well.
Fiji had a slight chance of gaining a place in the quarterfinals had England won the match against Wales but would only get there if Wales and England defeated the Wallabies and denying the Australians any bonus point.
And Fiji gaining bonus points win over Wales and Uruguay with 10 points would have given them the edge over Australia and Wales with nine points apiece accessing them to the quarters with the host nation.
But the results from the first two matches have put the three Tier One nations in a three way battle for Pool A that will easily see the top two move into the quarterfinals; semi-finals and because of their tough pool matches have prepared them best to play all the way to the finals.
The Fijian side reminds me of the 1999 competition where we had the scrums and lineouts that matched the best under Brad Johnstone’s watch but was mowed down through technical hurdles that continue to maim Tier Two nations.
The disallowing of Setareki Tawake’s try in the deciding Pool match against France and the one sided match against England in the playoffs for the last eight bundled them out of the competition.
The TMO calls on most of Fiji’s advances with a penalty try plus a questionable yellow card (Nikola Matawalu) in the 13th minute in the opening match against England continue to beg the question on so called fair play that World Rugby continually calls for as far as referees are concerned.
But on a more postive note, the Fijians have made strides in the engine room of the game leading in some areas of the forwards plays.
The stats speak for themselves with Leone Nakarawa leading with seven turnovers ahead of Wallaby David Pocock’s five; and Campese Ma’afu on equal fourth with three turnovers and Nemani Nadolo following on fifth equal with two turnovers after two matches for all participating teams.
Nakarawa is also second equal on lineout steals with two behind Dean Mumm of Australia on four and Dominiko Waqaniburotu equal third on one lineout steal.
With some respectability gained during this competition, Fiji Rugby Union have to thankful for the advances made through the coaching of John McKee, Frans Ludeke, Mosese Rauluni, Tabai Matson and Alan Muir.
The scoreline speaks for themselves; 11-35 against England; 13-28 against Australia in 2015 compared to the 0-66 hiding against Wales and 3-49 against South Africa in the 2011 competition has highlighted the improvements of the Fiji team and put them on a good footing for the future.
As the parent body needs to begin the groundwork to prepare for the next competition in Japan and raise the funds to keep the core of this coaching staff with some locals to take over the reins before 2019.