During 2018 the Flying Fijians undertook Test match campaigns across June, with matches against Samoa, Georgia (both played in Suva) & Tonga (Lautoka) and in November, with matches against Scotland (Edinburgh), Uruguay (Gloucester) & France (Paris).
Performance across these two campaigns was of a very high level with significant performance achievements met. 4 wins across 6 Test matches, retention of the Pacific Nations Cup in June, an away win against France (21–14) and finishing 2018 ranked 8th in the World Rugby Rankings were significant achievements in 2018.
Highlight of 2018 was the win over France in Paris on November 24. Disappointment was the defeat to a spirited & hungry Ikale Tahi in Lautoka in June. 9 months out from the 2019 RWC our report card looks ok and we can take some self-belief and momentum into 2019 following our historic win in Paris.
We are at the same time, well aware of the work that must be done across 2019 in the build up to RWC 2019 to help ensure Flying Fijians are put in the best position, through the team preparation, to be able to perform at levels required to have a chance of qualifying for the play off stages of the RWC by finishing 1st or 2nd in Pool D.
Once again in 2018, the tracking & monitoring of our potential players form, fitness, & injury status was a major task & process in the lead up to both June and November Test match campaigns. Approximately 50 overseas based players were closely tracked and monitored across Northern Hemisphere Competitions, Super Rugby, Mitre 10 Cup (NZ) & NRC (Australia) throughout 2018.
I undertook 2 trips to Europe (March & September) to get face to face with current & potential Flying Fijians at their clubs and also to meet with Professional Club Coaches & Management. I also made trips to New Zealand and Australia to do the same.
John Pryor (Strength & Conditioning Coach) also made 2 trips to Europe to assess players’ physical status and to provide players with supplementary fitness programs to help specifically prepare our players for the Flying Fijians program and with a long-term view towards RWC 2019.
My regular meeting & communication with Professional Club Coaches & Management along with John Pryor’s meetings with Professional Club Strength & Conditioning and Medical Staff has been a great boost in building relationships between the Professional Clubs and Fiji Rugby Union.
It was pleasing in 2018 to see a number of players making their debuts for the Flying Fijians. In all 10 new caps were selected to represent the Flying Fijians in 2018, building the current depth of players capable of playing at International Level.
Those players and their debut Test Match are as follows:
- Alivereti Veitokani Samoa
- Albert Tuisue Tonga
- Eroni Mawi Samoa
- Sevanaia Galala Samoa
- Ratu Vere Vugakoto Samoa
- Mesulame Dolokoto Scotland
- Semi Radradra Georgia
- Setareki Tuicuvu Scotland
- Eroni Sau Uruguay
Vereniki Goneva achieved a significant milestone when he played his 50th Test for the Flying Fijians against Georgia in Suva.
My congratulations goes to all these players.
Once again the World Rugby Pacific Rugby Challenge Competition for Fiji Warriors in March provided a very good match program for local players to stake their claims for Flying Fijians selection as did the Fijian Drua participation in the Australian NRC later in the year.
With the Fiji Drua winning the Australian National Rugby Championship in 2018 we can already see, in the 2nd year of participation, a significant pathway gap for locally based players between domestic and international competition has been bridged.
Locally based players selected for the November Tour were well prepared for International Rugby and made significant contributions to Flying Fijians Team performance.
Once again we were able to gather a World Class Coaching, Sports Science and Sports Medicine team to prepare & support the Flying Fijians in 2018.
The 2018 Flying Fijians Technical Coaching, Sports Science, Sports Medicine & Logisitics Team consisted of:
Attack & Skills: Andre Bell
Defence: Peter Ryan
Lineout & Restart: Neil Barnes
Scrum: Alan Miur
Kicking Consultant: Damien Hill
SPORTS SCIENCE & STRENGTH & CONDITIONING
Brian Downey June
Jennifer Khalik June
Sio Dickinson June
David Bick November
Leigh Egger November
Dr Emosi Taloga June
Dr Bryn Savill
Performance Analyst: John Batina
Video Analyst: Josh Vuto
Team Manager: Willie Baleinabuli June, Viliame Gadolo November
General Manager Rugby: Geoff Webster
Jurgen Heitman & Andy Washale made valuable contributions to the Flying Fijians in 2018 as Leadership & Management Consultants.
Jurgen and Andy joined the Flying Fijians for a week in June and a week in November to work with the Team Management & Coaching Group and the Senior Players Group in developing strategies in aligning the Technical Coaching & Management Team and in providing effective team leadership methodology.
Jurgen comes from a background of the highest levels of the US Military and is currently a management consultant for Business Organisations and Professional Sporting Teams in the USA.
Andy is a Sports Scientist who has worked with USA Olympic Sports, Redbull Performance Sports and consults to Logitech in California.
Chris Pollock (World Rugby Match Official Consultant) once again made a valuable contribution to the Team in the areas of understanding the Law and onfield discipline across both June and November Tests, I take this opportunity to thank all those involved for their valuable contributions across the year.
2018 Flying Fijians Results
- June v Samoa at ANZ Stadium Suva Won 24-22
- June v Georgia at ANZ Stadium Suva Won 37-15
- June v Tonga at Churchill Park Lautoka Lost 19-27
- November v Scotland at Murrayfield Edinburgh Lost 17-54
- November v Uruguay at Hatpury College Gloucester Won 68-7
- November v France at Stade de France Paris Won 21-14
- Points for: 186
- Points against: 139
- Tries scored: 27
- Tries converted: 19