Category Archives: Personalities

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Radradra at left wing a miff

Semi Radradra scores a try against France last November. Photo: World Rugby

The announcement by Flying Fijians coach John McKee yesterday to put Semi Radradra on the left wing will have the Australians working overtime wracking their mental faculties on the puzzling alteration.

Here is the key weapon McKee has been utilizing as outside centre to break defense structures in the November tour in Europe and Pacific Nations Cup; all of a sudden he names Radradra on the wideout . . . puzzling.

If the Wallaby defence is not attuned to the Fijian scheme putting him there, they will be in for a surprise, for sure.

Fiji’s back three named yesterday were Radradra on the left, Josua Tuisova on the right flank and Kini Murimurivalu at the back who are tested veterans for the Flying Fijians and all secure in their defence and devastating on attack.

Murimurivalu is safe with the high balls which will definitely be tested by Wallaby fly-half Christian Leali’ifano to set his speedy wingers Marika Koroibete and Reece Hodge on the edges for quick fire tries; so Radradra and Tuisova have to be on high alert to contain them.

The Lami villager has a quiet personality but has a tendency to pull surprises at times with his attacks from the back.

Kini Murimurivalu is a steady influence will start at fullback. Photo: Zimbio

It is too bad, high ball exponent and finisher Isi Folau has been tied up in controversy and the courts which has ruled him out for the tournament; so the rate of high ball scoring opportunities has been reduced considerably for the Australians.

Radradra has the skills to breakdown defenses but will need back up for finishing with speedsters on hand to complete the move from afar.

The Radradra component includes guile, strength and side steps to break up the defence with his deployment on the left flank, Hodge has his work cut out all afternoon at containing the Somosomo winger.

On the right, Tuisova has the size and strength to run straight at the defence ramming over them before using his speed to outpace the last vestiges of opposition.

The options for the halves at the end of the line in distributing the ball is clear, if you need a bulldozer go right, if you want guile, strength and busting defenses, go left.

On the bench coming on in the second half would be Alifereti Veitokani for subbing fullback Murimurivalu or Vereniki Goneva on the bench for the wings will come in looking for work with only 20-30 minutes left in the match.

The back three defence need to be wary of the scything runs by Wallaby fullback Kurtley Beale who is usually set up with the ball from five to 20 metres out and usually scoots in for tries at top kilter.

Fiji’s right winger Josua Tuisova enjoys running straight at the defence. Photo: LHRugby

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Filed under 2019 Rugby World Cup, Flying Fijians, Personalities, Rugby World Cup

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

Loose forwards need to negate Pocock

The loose forwards to start in a fortnight for the Flying Fijians Rugby World Cup opener have to be carefully selected with the best openside international flanker David Pocock possibly suiting up at the Sapporo Dome.

Muscled pilferer, David Pocock.

Pocock has been named at his favourite openside flanker position in his return after a six-month layoff through a calf injury; to skipper the Wallabies in their last warm up against Samoa on Saturday in Sydney.

Depending on the position he plays, Pocock has to be closely monitored whether he plays his preferred position at number seven or number 8 where he effectively undermined Fiji’s chances in the last Rugby World Cup.

Skipper Dominiko Waqaniburotu who will be opposite Pocock if he plays his normal berth at number 6, has to be doubly alert in the breakdowns where Pocock makes his mark in the first to react and pinch the ball from the carrier.

When given too much time and space, Pocock as he did against the Flying Fijians at the 2015 RWC had a field day in turnover balls which robbed Fiji of control and hard earned possession which they bested the Aussies at 53 percent.

If his counterpart and the whole team keep abreast of the ability of this pilferer, he can be contained and his potential in dominating the game minimised in protecting the ball carrier from the Australians.

An option would be playing Levani Botia at number 6 and moving Waqaniburotu at openside to watch and negate Pocock’s prowess at the breakdowns.

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.

Flying Fijian skipper Dominiko Waqaniburotu leads Fiji against France at the Stade de France in Paris last November.

The Pocock factor in mauls cost Fiji 12 points in the deficit in the 2015 RWC encounter within five minutes and saw the Wallabies lead 15-3 in the 31st minute at the Millennium Stadium.

If Pocock comes out at Sapporo Dome in a number 8 strip then we will have to pick between Viliame Mata and the stronger Peceli Yato to contain him.

Mata has evidently bulked up after three seasons with Guinness premier for Edinburgh but Yato with a longer service for his Clermont club in the Top 14 has a few years advantage in experience and gym work to match the Australian champion ball hunter.

The Nadroga loosie needs to check his exuberance though, with fiery exchanges which cost the team 10 minutes with 14 players after copping a yellow card after retaliating threw punches at the Tongans in their last warm up at Eden Park.

The Australians who have returned from a 10-day bonding and intensive training in Noumea have prepared well for the rugby showpiece in Japan and will come fired up for their first match on September 21.

It maybe a coincidence but the Pacific rivals clashed on almost the same date four years ago at the Cardiff stadium which saw the Australians defeat Fiji 28-13.

  • FRB will be looking at the different positions for the Flying Fijians in their RWC introduction first match against Australia in the next few posts.

Semi Kunatani in his Yamacia outfit.

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Filed under Fiji, Focus on rwc, Manu Samoa, Personalities, Rugby World Cup, Wallabies

Tonga hope for Tameifuna

Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna charges forward. Photo: Skysports

Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna charges forward. Photo: Skysports

Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna is looking to conclude his push to play for New Zealand and instead don the shirt of Tonga in November and the RWC.

The 23-year-old was in the All Blacks training squad in 2012 but hasn’t yet made his debut due to fitness concerns expressed by Steve Hansen.

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Filed under All Blacks, England 2015, Focus on rwc, Pacific Islanders, Personalities, Tonga, William Webb-Ellis Cup

Cockerill bites back at accusations

Richard Cockerill is under a lot of pressure. Photo: Planet Rugby

Richard Cockerill is under a lot of pressure. Photo: Planet Rugby

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill has refuted ‘average accusations’ linking the Tigers training methods to their substantial injuries.

A rough start to the season has seen Leicester lose their last three matches to Bath, London Irish and Gloucester, with a huge number of players sidelined through injury.

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Filed under Aviva Premiership, England, European Club, Personalities

‘Rokoduguni the best winger in 2014’

Semesa Rokoduguni was the man of the match in Bath's 21-11 win over Sarasens. Photo: Skysports

Semesa Rokoduguni was the man of the match in Bath’s 21-11 win over Sarasens. Photo: Skysports

Bath boss Mike Ford has lavished praise on outstanding winger Semesa Rokoduguni following the win over Saracens on Friday.

The British Army soldier has made waves since joining Bath in 2012, taking the Premiership by storm and winning a call-up to the England Saxons.

Rokoduguni was at it again in the 21-11 victory at The Rec, with Ford singling him out for praise.

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Filed under Aviva Premiership, Europe Fiji players, Fijian players, Personalities

ROBBIE DEANS: Fed to the Lions

Robbie Deans in Wallabies training gear (Photo: Supplied)

Robbie Deans in Wallabies training gear (Photo: Supplied)

The domestic coaching career of Robbie Deans is without parallel in the annuals of trans-Tasman rugby.

A former All Black, Deans was the pin-up boy of the Canterbury team of his generation during a 12-year playing career.

Even greater acclaim has followed as one of the best coaches of the modern era.

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Filed under All Blacks, Australia, Biography Review, Books, Coaching, New Zealand, Personalities, Wallabies