Fijiana 15s women expecting tough title defence

Fiji Airways Fijiana 15s player Lavenia Tinai looks for support during the Captain’s run at Churchill Park in Lautoka. Picture: REINAL CHAND

LAUTOKA, 16 NOVEMBER 2018 (RNZ PACIFIC) – The Fiji women’s rugby team are expecting plenty of competition as they seek to defend the Oceania Championship title.

The Fijiana 15s defeated Papua New Guinea 37-10 in the inaugural regional event two years ago.

Samoa and Tonga have joined an expanded sophmore competition this year, with all four teams to play each other once over the next nine days.

Fijiana 15s coach Inoke Male said women’s rugby is one the rise.

“Now in Fiji it’s growing – women’s rugby is going to be a worldwide sport and that is quite interesting for us as the coaches.”

Male, who is a former Flying Fijians head coach, said the hosts have been training together for the past month, with only one of their players involved in the last weekend’s Oceania Sevens.

“The sevens coaches mentioned to them that they had to choose one, whether they play sevens or they play fifteens,” he said.”

“Lots of the girls have been sevens (in the past but) now they are turning to fifteens and we are greatly impressed by the availability of the girls to be in the Fijiana 15s this year.”

Despite being the reigning champions, Inoke Male insisted Fiji won’t be taking their opponents lightly.

“We heard that Samoa has come prepared this year – they’ve got a team from New Zealand – so we as the hosts and playing in the home ground we are expecting to give the crowd a good game.”

Fiji’s first up opponents this afternoon are Tonga who have selected 17 local players, with the rest based in New Zealand.

Team manager Hoko Tu’ivai said the Kingdom know they are in for a big challenge.

“We are aware that the Fijian team are very fast so whatever skill and plan that we have learned and whatever result we will be happy to participate and get to play with each other in this competition.”

Samoa and Papua New Guinea get the tournament underway this afternoon at 1 o’clock local time Churchill Park in Lautoka.

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