“Why play Botia at flanker?”

Lepani Botia attacks for the Flying Fijians against Wales in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Photo: VAVEL

A question was made by one of the readers of Fiji Rugby Post’s latest post titled “Loose forwards need to negate Pocock” on why incumbent Flying Fijian inside centre Lepani Botia should play as a loose forward.

“Botia has never played flanker for Fiji. Why would they start him there now?” questioned Isaia Lawaniyasana on the Facebook Page Green & Blue Fiji.

“(Peceli) Yato, and (Semi) Kunatani can handle Pocock.”

FRB had made several recommendations to the Flying Fijians coaching staff to minimise the potential in the pilfering prowess of Australian champion openside flanker David Pocock.

Pocock, who played at number 8, had a field day pilfering breakdown balls from the Flying Fijians and led the Wallaby forwards in two mauls where he scored two tries within five minutes in their 2015 Rugby World Cup encounter.

Pocock dominated the match resulting in the Wallabies 28-13 win in spite of the 53 percent possession by the Flying Fijians and this was the answer provided for Mr Lawaniyasana.

“Great comment! Botia switches between inside centre and plays flanker for his club La Rochelle in the Top 14 competition. He’s very sharp on anticipating a breakdown and quick to react. Even though he maybe is smaller in stature to Yato and Kunatani, he has a tenacity that can match and overpower Pocock’s pilfering abilities if he has to IMO (in my opinion) . . .”

One of the suggestions by FRB was:

“playing Levani Botia at number 6 to negate Pocock’s prowess at the breakdowns and moving Waqaniburotu at openside.

“On the opposite number 6 for the Wallabies is incumbent captain Michael Hooper who is not too far behind Pocock in ability and quickness to react in the creation of a breakdown.

“Another option is to allow Botia to play a dual role in blindside flanker and inside back intermittently changing with Semi Kunatani or the bigger form of Jale Vatubua who could play number 6 at Wallaby throw-ins at set pieces.

“A little variation and unorthodoxy could throw the Aussies off to the Flying Fijians advantage and Kunatani or Vatubua could do with some innovative plays to ignite creativity which naturally breeds energy and enthusiasm.”

Botia who has been playing low key in the flanker’s role has a tenacity that only a few have on the international arenas and FRB believes if provided an opportunity could match the abilities of Pocock and more.

Pocock returned to the international rugby scene last Saturday wearing the Wallabies captain’s armband in his favoured openside flanker’s position after a six months layoff from a calf injury.

Botia debuted at openside flanker in April 2017, when La Rochelle beat Viliame Mata’s Edinburgh 32-22 to reach the English Challenge Cup semi-finals and now enjoys the position after coach Patrice Collazo tried him there.

Half of the breakdown issues especially with losing possession to the opposition are solo attacks without any close resources to support the ball carrier.

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Filed under Fiji, Fiji Rugby Blog, Fijian centres

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