Editorial Comment – Bridging the gap

Picture : Supplied

After that forgettable effort against Argentina in the quarter-finals of the Hamilton 7s in New Zealand yesterday, it was encouraging to read about the proposed under-18 competition.

The Fiji Rugby Union is set to introduce an under-18 competition to help players get more game time before representing the country at international age-group level tournaments.

This is long overdue. In fact it is the way to go.

The move apparently comes in the wake of concerns over the Fiji schoolboys’ performance during last year’s Oceania Championship.

The side, made up of players from the Fiji Secondary Schools Rugby Union (FSSRU) Deans competition, was beaten by Australia 58-5, Argentina 61-5 and New Zealand 74-5.

Fiji Rugby Union acting chief executive officer Tevita Tuiloa said after assessing the team management’s report, it was decided to trial a new under-18 competition this year.

However, changes to the school term have set back plans.

The FSSRU, he said, initially had a plan for this year before the school terms went back to three.

“We were excited to trial a new under-18 competition but that cannot happen in the three terms,” Tuiloa said.

“Probably moving forward and with consultations with the Ministry of Education, we will have to work out how best we can grow that level of competition.

“If you look at New Zealand, the number of games that they play is quite big. When they reach the national team or provincial teams, they already have a good base of games to come off on.”

He also urged affiliates unions to run their own junior competitions outside the national level. Yesterday, in Hamilton, the national side went down 10-19 to an Argentina side that was on fire.

We lacked physicality in the ruck area, and in defence, and were caught napping every time Argentina ran against the sliding defence. Argentina manipulated holes in our defensive shape, and came off with blinders after condensing our line.

In the end, it wasn’t the result we wanted. In saying that though, we have the base to start something from. It is now on Ben Gollings and Big Bill Satala to settle the team down, recover and motivate them to play the game of their lives in Australia.

We may lack grunt upfront, however, we have a number of aces still up our sleeves. The challenge is going to be on how well we can stay composed, work our defensive shape, retain possession, stay focused under pressure, and believe in ourselves. In the end, it is also going to be about how well we can read the opposition, manage time, and be consistent.

We need to be switched on and find our rhythm early in Australia. Now back to the under 18 competition. As we said, this is the way to go. We keep referring back to the Fijian Drua, and professional rugby.

We keep referring back to a transition from schoolboy rugby to top level rugby in Super Rugby, or in Europe. Any effort to bridge this gap should be embraced and welcomed.

We say bring it on!

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