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Up from the dust

Kameli Rakoko
Thursday, November 15, 2012

HOW much Fiji recovers from that hiding against England depends on what mettle our players and our coaching staff are made of.

England beat us 54-12 and New Zealand beat Scotland 51-22 so what's the big deal?

Taking too much of the English TV comments will only add negativity to the positives our players got out of that England Test, but there were some constructive comments and in rugby union we can have 10 different opinions and they will be all right and work depending on the opposition.

The Scottish TV commentators had positive remarks about their team despite the big score.

The English commentators failed to highlight that the Fiji team was a makeshift one, having players opting out because of injuries and other reasons and having trained together as a team for only three days.

And if they neared the record score of 58 points by England in 1989, the points awarded for a converted try then was six and not seven so really the 54 points scored would have been 47 in 1989.

Our scrums may have been rattled at the beginning of the game but it got better in the end and the penalty try came when one of our forwards was in the sinbin.

The two tries in the second half showed that our team was beginning to work together and against Gloucester they should improve their teamwork and then the Ireland match will give us a fair account of how good this team is.

The backline never really got running against England and we should take a leaf out of the new sevens rugby style where coach Alifereti Dere emphasised running rugby instead of players committing themselves.

Former Fiji skipper and coach Pio Bosco Tikoisuva hit the nail on the head when he commented on television regarding Fiji players committing themselves too much.

We do not have to search far and wide for the answer, it's right there in our coaching team.

National coach Inoke Male will have to take on coaching director Franck Boivert's quick expansive rugby style which the latter used with Nadroga rugby.

That's the way we are to play rugby and that's the way the English team beat us by running the width of the field while our Fijian wingers hardly took a clean pass.

It is when the wingers and centre bag the most tries that we'll know the rugby team mechanism is fully working.

Benji Makutu and Manasa Saulo ended up holding the scrum well with Jerry Naureure at hooker in the final quarter and they put their hands up as a likely front row lineup that coach Male could start with.

Despite the score our team were not too overwhelmed in the set pieces compared to previous Fijian teams and as long as we keep improving in that department we are doing right.

During the 2007 Rugby World Cup we were pushed back in the scrums and lost our lineout throws yet we beat Wales and held eventual champions South Africa 20-20 before the last quarter. It is something we have to live with and keep improving while not moving away from our own brand of running rugby.

However, they had the extra zip in leg agility and fitness acquired from sandhills training in Sigatoka.

That was the only way local players could have matched the match fitness of overseas players playing intensive rugby week in, week out. Talebula, Matawalu, Goneva and Akapusi Qera had this attribute.

Fiji's two tries scored were created from backline passing and the reserves tried to open up the game when they came in.

The first one by Nikola Matawalu was a typical loose play combination with Metuisela Talebula and the second try by replacement lock Sekonaia Kalou came after a reverse pass in the backs to Vereniki Goneva and from the ensuing ruck Kalou bulldozed his way through.

Finally, our team did have some form of fitness but they were one step behind the English.

The only lessons learned from this tour is that we should not compare England with teams like Tonga and Samoa whom we can just get out of bed and play.

Fiji Rugby Union should see that we play warm-up matches before facing Tier One nations like England in Tests. Either arrange a game in Canada, USA or Hong Kong and have all overseas players flown from wherever they are.

Even having the game here in Fiji with overseas players flown in. If preparation is 80 per cent and execution 20 per cent then we do not have to be surprised that we did badly as we may have only hit 30 per cent of the required preparation to face England.

Rugby fans will only be too willing to fork out the extra expenses in fundraising drives to help in preparing the Fiji team.

They would rather live with a hole in the pocket compared to a hole in the heart the day after.

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