Tag Archives: Flying Fijians

Cavubati, Nakarawa to play locks in RWC opener

The pairing of Tevita Cavubati and Leone Nakarawa as locks for the opener against Australia is a foregone conclusion after manning those berths towards the end part of the Pacific Nations Cup and Tonga in the Pasifika challenge in Auckland.

Flying Fijians lock Tevita Cavubati reacts after Fiji scored a try against Wales in the 2015 RWC. Photo: Stuff

Cavubati who was rested in the Maori series and the match against the Brave Blossoms at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium came back strongly off the bench against Canada; then started with the number four jumper against Samoa in the last PNC match; and Tonga at Eden Park.

The Tubou native’s presence was immense against the Samoans holding his own with Nakarawa in the set pieces and displayed strong straight running with ball in hand. He played well against the Tongans with outstanding lineout abilities and mixing it with the hard-nosed Ikale Tahi Tongans in the hard and rough tumbles.

Nakarawa whose abilities in open field have won himself European and international club titles for several years in the forwards department and his offloads comes at all angles for supporting players to receive the ball at top speed. His outstanding contribution in the set pieces have set him apart where he will play a crucial role.

2015 Rugby World Cup starter 33-year-old Apisalome Ratuniyarawa has been sidelined for a few matches but can still play when needed off the bench.

New find lock forward Tevita Ratuva, 24, has fresh legs and the aerial skills at top speed which he showed coming off the bench in the PNC could be utilized in end of the play place kicks to the end zone.

Cavubati and Nakarawa who started and played well in the 21-14 defeat of France at Paris last November have a wealth of experience and will exude confidence which the team needs a lot of in the opening Rugby World Cup match.

Nakarawa has a wealth of experience.

The front row who will be named tomorrow; with a stipulation by World Rugby for team names to be announced at least 48 hours before kickoff; will see Manasa Saulo and Campese Ma’afu as props with Sam Matavesi as the hooker. 30-year-old Saulo has a wealth of experience as the lead commodity for the revival of the Fijian scrums but has aged considerably with the younger proponents Peni Ravai Kovekalou and Lee-roy Atalifo giving strong challenges to start.

Ma’afu, 34, brings a big grunt and competitive edge to the forwards but has been strongly competing for the number three jumper with hardworking 23-year-old Eroni Mawi. Mawi who has caught up with the game won two turnovers against France last November coming off the bench.

Matavesi has been a new revelation for the Flying Fijians bringing a strong work ethic and feistiness to the table and is willing to mix it with the bigger opposition when the chips are down. Mesu Dolokoto and Tuvere Vugakoto bring their own array of skills if called up to start or play off the bench.

The Pacific opponents Australia who have won two RWC titles in 1991 and 1999 have one of the best tight fives in the globe and will come into the game with confidence and expectation to roll Fiji over.

For Fiji to win and set the tone for a Japanese tournament success; the set pieces have to be spot on and if not emulate, improve on the 100 percent set piece ball retention in the 2015 version in the British Isles.

Compete for the ball during an Aussie breakdown and shut out the Australians by resourcing the Fijian ball carrier with plenty of support at the whiff of a breakdown.

Fiji knows what it takes to beat the Aussies and they have enough firepower to overcome them by at least 20 points.

Loose head prop Eroni Mawi won two turnovers against France last November coming off the bench. Photo: Fiji Rugby Union

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Filed under 2019 Rugby World Cup, Fiji, Flying Fijians, Focus on rwc, Japan, Opinion, Rugby World Cup, Wallabies, William Webb-Ellis Cup

Wallabies fan? Yes

I was wearing a Wallaby shirt the other day and someone commented; are you a Wallaby fan? To which I replied of course.

The navy blue quality polo shirt with Australian logos and insignia was a gift to me from my younger sister who lives in Melbourne and I enjoy wearing it.

Of course I am a Wallaby fan BUT; Fiji is my team for this Rugby World Cup kicking off Friday night at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo between the hosts; the Brave Blossoms and Russia.

As far as World Rugby rankings go; Fiji is currently ranked ninth in the world and has an outside chance to go all the way and play in the final.

Missing fullback, Isi Folau celebrates a try for the Wallabies. Photo: Getty Images

Of course the Wallabies; ranked sixth, stand in the way which Fiji meets first up at the Sapporo Dome on Saturday; and that match pretty much determines Fiji’s fate in the championship.

To go back a few decades; Fiji was my team during the 60s and 70s following them on live telecast via FBC radio whether it was a New Zealand; Australian or British Isles tour; my dad and most of the family would gather around to listen to the Fijians play.

Sometimes it would be a near loss; or a draw and most of times which predetermined a wonderful day was a win for the Fijians; sometimes intently followed on radio in the wee hours of the morning.

The game has progressed phenomenally especially after the advent of professionalism after the 1995 RWC in South Africa.

Fiji didn’t take part in the tournament where former Rainbow nation President Nelson Mandela’s charisma propelled the Springboks to their maiden RWC with a win over New Zealand with their giant the late Jonah Lomu in the final.

Flying Fijian Josefa Levula epitomises the legendary player for the islanders.

Fiji was in the doldrums waking up in stupor during the 1995 championship and has been at a loss in the XVs game ever since.

Gradually, in spite of the speed of the game with totally alien championships and new global ventures combining the tier one nations with television audiences and mega advertising revenues; Fiji are beginning to adapt to the changes and waking up to the advances.

Coach John McKee has bided his time since taking over in 2014; with meagre resources to work with between Fiji’s amateur provincial competition; and seeking the other Fijians players in Super Rugby franchises, European premier club competitions to woo them into the Flying Fijians squad.

Several camps have been held in France where most of his human resources lie; for the November window tours matching the Fijians with European teams and; and camps in Fiji with the regular Pacific Nations Cup in July-August.

In spite of the widespread geographical challenges of Fiji’s players’ locations; the lack of being together compared to Tier One nations where their domestic competition and regular international setups allow them regular playing time together, Fiji’s hopes have never dimmed.

McKee knows the logistical and financial challenges and has taken it all in stride with the belief that one day it will pay dividends in putting Fiji on the top of the rugby hierarchy.

Fiji coach John McKee has been patiently leading the way. Photo: Daily Mail UK

The diligent guiding hand of McKee and the coaching staff is beginning to bear fruit with wins over the Maori All Blacks in July and France last November in Paris. There were close results too against Ireland and Scotland in their home grounds in the last couple of years.

This year, in spite of the challenges; Fiji has been able to stay together playing some quality matches since July playing a two-match series against the New Zealand Maoris; Japan, Canada, Samoa and Tonga.

The outcome of those matches with mixed results saw Fiji score four wins and two losses; but the invaluable time spent together was the key in building up for the Japanese showcase.

With confidence and quiet self-belief, Fiji has the biggest stage with the global audiences watching to make the biggest statement that it is the love of the sport, the heart and willingness to overcome all the obstacles that matter.

My prediction is that the Flying Fijians will defeat the Wallabies by a 20 points margin and will set the stage for a highly competitive 2019 RWC.

Wallaby fan? Yes, because when Fiji starts scoring those tries, the Aussies need all the help they can get.

The William Webb-Ellis Cup will be up for grabs at the Japanese showcase: Planet Rugby

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Filed under Fiji, Flying Fijians, Flying Fijians coach, Focus on rwc, Opinion, Rugby World Cup, Wallabies

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

Inside centre Lepani Botia played well against Ikale Tahi Tonga at Eden Park on Saturday.

The combination of Lepani Botia and Semi Radradra in the centres against the Ikale Tahi Tonga on Saturday underlined the importance of selection for the Flying Fijians for each opposition in the coming Rugby World Cup.

The pair stood their ground in controlling the Tongan onslaught and had loads of resilience to turn the tide from defence to attack in the little possession afforded the team which resulted in two quick fire tries in the first half.

Masterminding the Red attacks were experienced midfield veterans; skipper Siale Piutau and Cooper Vuna who have decades of experience between them in the NRL, Super Rugby, Guinesses Premier, Japanese Premier and internationals.

The Fijian centres not only stemmed the tide in attacks but the experienced Tongans found it hard going when attempting to stop the straight running Botia and the strong elusive Radradra when the Fijians had possession mostly from turnover balls in the breakdowns.

Waisea Nayacalevu attacks for Fiji. Photo: Zimbio

The key positions in the Flying Fijians against Australia in their opening Rugby World Cup match has to be suited to the environment, best option for the opposition, form in training and the ability to have the mental strength to overcome when everything looks bleak on the pitch.

The combination of Botia and Radradra was ideal for the Tongan uncompromising style of attacks with 90 percent advantage in field position and possession in the first 40 minutes; stemmed the backline forays; with the Ikale Tahi reverting to the power of the forwards to breach the Fijian defence with a couple of mauling tries.

Botia combined well with Waisea Nayacalevu against the New Zealand Maori in their record 27-10 win at the ANZ Stadium in Suva on July 13 while the same combination failed to fire againt the Brave Blossoms a fortnight later.

The combination of Jale Vatubua and Semi Radradra was ideal against the Les Bleus in Fiji’s 21-14 victory at Stade de France in Paris on November 24 last year but was hardly used in the Maori series and the Pacific Nations Cup against Japan and Samoa.

Against the Canadians the pair was consistent with one backline try through left winger Josua Tuisova and the forwards took charge with tries to lock Leone Nakarawa, prop Peni Ravai, and one apiece for loose forwards Peceli Yato and Viliame Mata recording a 38-13 win.

Semi Radradra scores a try for the Flying Fijians. Photo: Rugby Pass

The 19-stone Vatubua maybe an advantage in containing the Viseisei Express Train in the 17-stone Samu Kerevi but the coaches have to select the ideal number 12 in that first match at Sapporo Dome against the Wallabies on September 21.

At the same time the selectors have to take a close look at the pros and cons with picking Botia or Vatubua for the inside centre position in the all important first Flying Fijian match considering their overall play.

Botia is quick to react and pilfer balls from the attacking players in the breakdown; while the hulking Vatubua maybe the key in slowing down the breakthrough attacks from opposite number Kerevi and scything runs from fullback Kurtley Beale for the Wallabies.

The reintroduction of James O’Connor at outside centre was a headache for the Kiwis in the Bledisloe I match in Perth which saw the Wallabies 47-26 runaway last month which Fiji has to answer with either Radradra or Nayacalevu to contain the former Sale Sharks premier centre.

The revamped bad boy;  O’Connor who debuted for the Wallabies when he was 18 years old in 2008 has sparked the attack of the Australians with a steady influence and offloads freeing up the backline players around him when on the rampage during the Bledisloe series.

The Flying Fijians face the Wallabies in their 2019 Rugby World Cup first match at the 40,000 plus capacity Sapporo Dome which is located on the island of Hokkaido which is north of Honshu where the capital Tokyo is located.

  • 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.
Jale Vatubua attacks for Fiji against Australia on June 10, 2017, at AAMI Park in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Getty Images

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019 · 20:32

Eden Park Dress Rehearsal


Loose forward Semi Kunatani is gang tackled by Manu Samoa players in the final PNC match in Suva. Photo: Zoom Fiji

The dress rehearsal at Eden Park in Auckland on August 31 will be the final stretch for the Flying Fijians to test their set pieces in the match against a strong Ikale Tahi Tongan side.

The inconsistencies in the lineouts and the scrums throughout the past five matches; two Maori and three Pacific Nations Cup games, will finally provide an indication of how the team will fare in the Rugby World Cup.

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Filed under Fiji, Flying Fijians, Manu Samoa, Maori All Blacks, Pacific Nations Cup, Rugby World Cup, Samoa, Tonga, William Webb-Ellis Cup

Silence preludes final selection

fiji sand dunes new

The selected squad need more training at the Sigatoka sand dunes. Photo: FRU

With the predominant culture of servitude and silence currently pervading the country, there has been a lack of critical comments on the final selection of the 31-man squad for the Flying Fijians to be announced on Friday. Continue reading

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Filed under Flying Fijians, France, Georgia, Manu Samoa, Opinion, Pacific Nations Cup, Rugby World Cup

US views top FRB posts


Flying Fijian outside centre Semi Radradra fends off a Canadian player in the WRPNC on Saturday at the ANZ Stadium in Suva, Photo: Rugby Pass

The United States visitors top the viewership of Fiji Rugby Blog with 25 percent with 5648 views followed by 4848 views from Fiji since the first post was published in May 31, 2007.

The total of 22,518 views from 140 nations has been mostly focused on the 761 posts on the FRB site with several views recorded on the home page/archives on information about FRB labelled ‘Rants, Raves and Incoherent Thoughts’.

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Filed under ANZ Stadium Suva, Fiji Rugby Blog, Flying Fijians, Pacific Nations Cup, Rugby World Cup, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup