Fiji’s blindside flanker, 22-year-old Peceli Yato, outplayed his opposite number Australian 31-year-old Scott Fardy in all facets of their Rugby World Cup match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
According to World Rugby stats Yato gained 31 metres with the ball in hand compared to Fardy’s 13 metres and in defence Yato scored a 100 percent tackling with four of his attempts compared to 89 percent of Fardy’s with eight attempts.
Yato recorded no handling errors compared to Fardy’s one and Yato also had an edge over Fardy with four carries over the gainline compared to three of Fardy’s.
Yato also won one lineout steal compared to none of Fardy’s while the lanky Fijian outshone his Wallaby counterpart recording a clean game in the ruck while Fardy conceded a penalty in killing one.
Yato also beat one defender easily with ball in hand while Fardy recorded none which continually points to the Fijian player, stats wise, defeating the Australian in all facets of the game.
The case in point belabours the fact that Yato with only six caps for the Flying Fijians showed more enthusiasm and versatility of youth outplayed his more experienced opponent with 26 caps with the highly fancied Australian outfit.
With the four year gap for the next version of the Rugby World Cup it may pay for the Flying Fijians to revisit their targeted age group to carry the hopes of the nation to Japan in 2019.
Yato is the youngest player in the Fijian squad at 22, while Ben Volavola and Metuisela Talebula are the second youngest at 24; the oldest player wearing the coconut leafed strip was experienced rake Sunia Koto at 35.
Head coach John McKee said yesterday that “quite a number of these players (current RWC squad) will be around for the next world cup in 2019 in terms of their age now” during an interview with the Fiji Times.
Realistically if the Fijian team is targeting youth more than experience the players who made it to the 2015 Rugby World Cup is quite limited with an average age of 28.3 which is the sixth oldest team in the competition.
Possible players who will be selected age-wise from this current squad are 22-year-old Yato; 24-year-olds Volavola and Talebula; 25-year-olds Waisea Nayacalevu, Josh Matavesi, Peni Ravai and Taniela Koroi; 26-year-olds Manasa Saulo, Lepani Botia, Kini Murimurivalu, Nikola Matawalu and Henry Seniloli; 27-year-olds Leone Nakarawa, Nemia Kenatale, Nemani Nadolo and Leeroy Atalifo.
On the borderline possible players if they still maintain their fitness and sharpness are 28-year-olds (will be 32 in 2019) Tevita Cavubati and Timoci Nagusa; 29-year-olds Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Api Ratuniyarawa and Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
The 30 plus age group that may not make it to Japan in the current squad and could be taking a bow for their last world cup are Koto, Vili Veikoso, Isei Colati, Sakiusa Matadigo, Malakai Ravulo, Akapusi Qera, Noa Soqeta, Netani Talei, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Vereniki Goneva and Gabirieli Lovobalavu.
Even though experience is needed to keep an even keeled Flying Fijian squad, the exuberance and enthusiasm in the younger player should be a key factor in selection for the Japanese competition.