Editorial comment – Bring it on!

Josua Tuisova (with ball) attacks during the Flying Fijians training at Albert Park. Picture: RAMA

The stage is set for a feast of top quality rugby action this weekend in Suva.

Flying Fijians head coach Vern Cotter has made no bones about the quality of preparation he expects, and says the national team is ready for its opening Pacific Nations Cup match against Tonga.

While there will be a lot of attention focused on the national side, the Ikale Tahi have been boosted by a former Wallaby and ex-All Blacks players.

Fans will expect them to bring in emotions and a touch of experience and grunt into the Tongan challenge. Former Wallaby backliner Israel Folau, and ex-All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and Salesi (Charles) Piutau have all been named in Tonga’s national rugby squad for the first time.

They have pumped up the Tongan campaign thanks to a recent change in World Rugby’s eligibility rules. Cotter knows what to expect though.

He knows the quality of the Tongan squad and is expecting a physical clash on Saturday.

“We know those players have certain traits and we will look to shut them down in that area,” said Cotter.

“Tonga is always physical so we need to be ready to face the one-on-one confrontations from the set-pieces. Our go forward is important and we need to dominate in that area.”

Cotter knows the Flying Fijians will have to ride on the back of what he terms ‘smart rugby’.

“Folau is very good in the air depending on how we kick. Fekitoa has good feet in the midfield and we will have to keep an eye on him. We know how dangerous they are so we will focus more on our game in order to shut them out.”

With the arrival of the Europe-based players into the squad, Cotter will have the freedom to choose his best players to represent the nation in their first match on Saturday. The ultimate goal is the next Rugby World Cup in 2023.

“As players come in, it will be a good time to test them and obviously prepare them for the November series and the Rugby World Cup,” Cotter said.

The Flying Fijians take on Tonga at 3.30pm while Samoa takes on Australia A at 1pm.

There can be no doubts about the level of interest and attention that is slowly shifting to these two big games this weekend. After a two-year lull, it is refreshing for fans to be part of international games once again.

It is good to see our top international players back home.

In fact it is exciting thinking about the fact that we have most of our top players available for the Pacific Nations Cup competition.

Our challenge now is how well we can focus on putting up a quality campaign against the best from around the region. We say bring it on!

More Stories