Key number 10 position

Flying Fijian flyhalf Ben Volavola with Holywood star girlfriend Shailene Woodley in New York. Photo: gotceleb

The halves combination is one of the most important aspects of any team whether club competition or the highest level in the Rugby World Cup which kicks off tomorrow night in Tokyo.

Coach John McKee has not been coy about his choice at number nine with Frank Lomani debuting in the global showpiece which the Savusavu native deservedly merits with his exploits on show in the last November Tests in Europe and the last couple of Pacific Nations Cup series.

Chomping on the bits in the fringes are charismatic Nikola Matawalu and nippy Henry Seniloli who will definitely add spice to the exciting line-up outside to showcase Fiji’s attacking prowess to the world.

The all-important choice McKee would have been mulling over since the last warm up against Tonga at Eden Park last month is the fly-half berth against the Wallabies.

Ben Volavola has been groomed since the last RWC in England to take over the reins but the Tongans straight shooting all out defence on the day flustered the Tailevu man.

So much so, that it seemed like he lost his moorings and began to show some uncharacteristic decision making and unusual manouvres.

Alifereti Veitokani lines up a shot for Rewa in the HFC Bank Bainimarama Shield Challenge at the Lawaqa Park. Photo: Fiji Sun

One of the daily newspapers ran a back-page opinion that Volavola should not be wearing the number 10 strip but only come off the bench in the last 15 minutes of a Fiji game to help maintain the lead by pinning the opponents to their half by kicking long range balls from Fiji’s half.

Volavola has shown glimpses of poise and attacking rugby but does he have the goods to keep a calm head under intense if not more intense mass defence from the Wallabies in their opening match.

Of course the Australian intelligentsia would have had tens or even hundreds of re-runs of the Eden Park match and will exploit the weakness to their advantage.

Other options would be Josh Matavesi who has a calm demeanor and can handle the pressure when the chips are down. He has a straight in your face defence which rattles the opposition and would be keen to make up for the unfortunate last minute snubbing at the 2015 RWC.

Alifereti Veitokani has a mean step to outgun the opposition when presented a good pass in the pocket with good vision and always keen to do new things.

Out of the three, Volavola played under Wallabies coach Michael Cheika with the Waratahs in Super Rugby and has several players in the opposition who know him inside out.

The question is will Volavola be able to come out and stick to his guns and play according to the game plan the Fijians have been working on for the last few weeks or will be crumble under the enormity of the occasion?

If there is some niggling doubts about his ability to stay within the parameters of the plan laid out, he has to stay out or come off the bench at a latter stage of the opening match, or even play in the next match against Uruguay to regain his confidence.

This match is an important one, if not the most crucial for Fiji to make a statement and the man wearing the number 10 will make or break Fiji’s first impression on the 2019 Rugby World Cup match at the Sapporo Dome on Saturday.

Josh Matavesi plays for the Flying Fijians against England in November, 2017. Photo: RNZ

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Filed under 2019 Rugby World Cup, Fiji, Flying Fijians, Focus on rwc, Personalities, Rugby World Cup

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