Rugby is their sport…..
On retiring, I made a conscious effort to travel and to travel to Fiji and experience the Islands whilst I had friends still there, under the guidance of the then Fiji captain, current coach and good friend, Mosese Rauluni. Rugby is Fiji’s national sport and the Fijians love it so much, Mosese's arrival home was recorded on the front pages of the national newspaper and days later, his wife, Maile and their first born 'papped' for the back page.
At the end of each day on the main island, 5pm signaled the ritual of rugby players, many times bare footed, shorts, vest and boots grasped in hands, walking into their village to play rugby. The state of the pitch did not matter, bamboo uprights gave more of a triangle to kick through than an open space. They just wanted to have the ball in hand. All games were high octane and played with a smile. A joy to watch, as each player throws in outrageous side steps they have watched their heroes, Waisale Serevi & Vilimoni Delasau perform against the best defences in the world in their prime.
Whilst in Fiji, there was an international against New Zealand Maoris, which was preceded by a monsoon. The corrugated iron roof of the stand I sat in peeled off crushing a car behind. The surface water was inches deep. The players were not about to disappoint their fans, their kinship. The show must go on with usual ferocity of big hits.
An experience that only enhanced my respect for the nation, its people and their rugby.
England v Fiji, RWC 2015…..
Friday will be a greater challenge for England than many in the media have given credit. Alongside the undisputed individual talent, they have history in upsetting the World Cup form books in previous tournaments. This summer they have won the Pacific Cup, as well as having spent more concentrated time together than ever before. Teams such as England have been able to historically beat them with greater organisation and technical skills. Fiji have been together for 2½ months. A chance to hone their own set piece in attack and nullifying opposition driving mauls/scrums. As a team they will be better prepared than ever before.
Bath bound Niko Matawalu, is key to testing out the quality of England’s defence around the fringes, quick away from picks off the base of the scrum and ever alert to hold support lines, resulting in tries against their last opponents, Canada. Nemani Nadolo at 6’5 and 20 stone is an imposing figure on the wing and equally with his undisputed pace. With an additional 2 stone than that of Jonah Lomu in his dizzy heights of the 1995 World Cup, he is not shy to bulldoze those that stand in front of him.
However much Fiji have been together and improved their organisation and set piece, England must target this to not only to put doubt in their minds but not allow Fiji to use the talent that they have out wide. With the adrenaline of the opening match against England, I would expect Fiji players to want to come out of line to hit attacking runners. We must recognise the opportunities either side of this lone defender to attack in to holes.
I foresee a tough work out but an England victory. The win is the important statistic.