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Pacific rivals set for rugby showdown

Kameli Rakoko
Friday, June 20, 2014

GLASGOW-BASED Nikola Matawalu may have just forced his way to be the top halfback of the Vodafone Flying Fijians following his match-winning form against the Tongans last Saturday.

The Ra fury was a livewire in both defence and attack and was the fourth loose forward for Fiji in physical contests for possession.

The current performance of the Flying Fijians would be watched with much interest by the sevens rugby coaches, selectors and management mapping out our campaign for the Olympic gold medal in Rio in 2016.

On current form, Crusaders' Nemani Nadolo, Matawalu and Dominiko Waqaniburotu are three players showing blistering pace while the evergreen Sireli Bobo can still outrun the best wingers out there with Watisoni Votu putting his hands up.

Australia have indicated that they will rope in Israel Folau and a couple other Wallabies while Habana is being lined up for South Africa.

However, last Saturday, Matawalu teamed up with skipper Akapusi Qera, Waqaniburotu and Mal Ravulo to neutralise the Tongan pack in the tackle ball area and rucks.

It was an area the Tongans had an upper-hand against the Samoans in Apia the week before.

Matawalu has in the past Test matches come in as an impact player playing second string to Nemia Kenatale. But the way he spurs up the Fijian attack and looks for slight openings may clinch him the top spot.

Kenatale is a solid performer at the base of the scrum but Matawalu is more of the running halfback like backline coach Mosese Rauluni was.

This Fiji team has the same ingredients as the 2007 Rugby World Cup team with a livewire halfback and backs with exceptional speed like Nemani Nadolo, Matawalu, Bobo, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Votu and Napolioni Nalaga.

They also have a mobile set of forwards that can hold their own in the loose and tight situations.

Against Samoa this Saturday, the Flying Fijians face a tough side which defeated Italy 15-0.

By having Matawalu in the run on team will ensure that we have another flying start to the game.

Another positive contribution was made by the kicking game of first-five Jonetani Ralulu. His grubber kick that led to Votu's first try was a clinically executed move.

Coach John McKee will have to pick players who can take hard knocks and give back much harder against the Samoans as that is the only way to beat them.

The Samoans also have speedy winger and captain David Lemi scoring some tactical tries set up by cross kicks from flyhalf Tusi Pisi.

The hard running of Hurricane's Alapate Le'ua and centre Sale Sharks Johnny Leota will have to be contained early or else they will create havoc.

The Samoans are both physical and tactical in their approach.

It was a wonderful weekend of sports and the Netherland fans in Kinoya have yet to start rolling with their pizza party.

In 2010 there was pizza for "chaser" each time Netherlands won and it was sweet revenge last Saturday against Spain who beat them in that final 1-0.

While Roben and Van Persie will be heavily marked from now on, that will leave Wesley Snyder some room to take his turn in scoring in the next matches against Australia and Chile for Group B.

Our young Flying Fijians are not having the same success of their elder brothers in New Zealand and leaves our rugby development with much work to do in the next couple of seasons to find the answers.

Our Fiji Pearls have consistently dominated the Pacific arena in netball and hopefully that will be the case too for our rugby boys.

But the rugby displayed by Japan over US in the weekend was first class with two pushover tries. Japan's win over Samoa was definitely no fluke and playing Fiji will be the highlight of Pacific rugby this season. Go Fiji go!

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