Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019 – Rayne Simpson – Kai Savusavu



I am delighted to again share my views with Teivovo Rugby readers by continuing to analyse the Flying Fijians opponents in our challenge for Rugby’s holy grail – the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019.

In this issue, we will analyse all three of our remaining opposition,
• vs Uruguay 25th September
• vs Georgia 3rd October
• vs Wales 9th October

Local Rugby Grassroots

I want to start by spending a short time on grass roots local rugby and discuss our success on and off the field since our last issue went to print. We raised the opportunity for our 7s teams upcoming on-field performance in the last 2 legs to be crowned HSBC World Rugby 7s Series champions; a feat they accomplished with amazing grandeur performances.

Next was the Baby Flying Fijians finally returning to the top tier Junior World Cup Championships (JWC) after some years out competing in the Tier 2 Junior World Trophy (JWT) tournament, The young team were up against it in a pool that would challenge them heavily, playing against Tier 1 heavyweights, however they managed to keep their position in the 2020 JWC and not be demoted to the JWT tournament.

The Fiji Warriors team, a well-coached and drilled local squad winning for the 4th year in a row World Rugby’s Pacific Challenge. Our Ladies 7s and 15s teams continue to grow from strength to strength with participating numbers growing throughout the country. Watch this space with Fiji Womens rugby.

At provincial levels the Skipper Cup and Vodaphone Vanua competitions in Seniors, U20s and Womens teams came to an end with one of the most competitive seasons for many years as provincial teams strive harder to compete at the highest level within Fiji and the opportunity to expose their own hidden talent to Fiji and the rest of the world.

Fiji Rugby has put in place an identification and development opportunity with the aforementioned competitions and now with their direct input into Fiji Secondary School competitions have an excellent opportunity to now offer all players a clear pathway to the highest levels of Rugby in the country and overseas – congratulations Rugby Fiji.

Technically sound

Radradra, Tuisova, Nakarawa, Botia, Kunatani, Ravai, Saulo, Tuisue, Waganiborotu, Lomani, Mata, Nayacalevu and more so how good must John Mckee feel to have such talent at his disposal as he surgically prepares this team for RWC 2019 in Japan?

McKee’s preparation of the Flying Fijians campaign is one to carefully analyse leading up to the no-second-prize RWC tournament where discipline and injury management will play a huge part in their success; some say it is just as important as their on-field performance.

The Flying Fijians have sent out a warning shot across the bow of all teams in their Pool after great performances against the Maori All Blacks, taking out the first game in Suva and going down in a close one in Rotorua in the return.

John McKee fielding a different team that also performed way above expectations is a pleasing position for the Head Coach and his management group to be in whilst strategizing their RWC assault.

As we go to print the final stages of preparations are underway with the Pacific Nations Cup and a couple of friendlies planned prior to the final team selection for the big stage in Japan and RWC 2019.


Uruguay cannot be taken lightly as they achieved direct entry into RWC 2019 after winning the Americas Championship defeating Canada to cement their position in our pool.

Their set piece and in particular their lineout was sound, with predominantly 4 and 6 man options, their set up shape being 3. 4. 5. 8. 7 allowing them to use 4, 5, 8 and 7 as lineout options.

Uruguay use this on their attacking mauls with the 6 standing at halfback who becomes the driver/ripper. Their 6 is also used for midfield starter plays to initiate their phase launch patterns.

They depend a lot on their kicking game with a better than average kick chase defensive structure. Uruguay tend to struggle at scrum time with several scrum resets and penalties against them; both the above areas our Flying Fijians can exploit.


The Uruguay side are an opportunistic type team who can punish teams on turnover ball. They have several fast players who are very agile on their feet, given an intercept, or a dropped ball turnover, can keep them in the game.

They have an ever-improving set piece which held up well against a strong well-coached Canadian pack who Uruguay beat comfortably to gain direct entry to the RWC.


If the Flying Fijians want to take advantage of the Uruguayan attack the most visible is the set piece, without good front football they seem to have minimal launch structure to which they revert to kicking long into the corners.

If Uruguay decide to kick to the Flying Fijians then the game will most certainly be over for them due to the explosive counter attacking skill available to our team.

Our strength in the tackle and ability to offload 50/50 passes will need to be carefully managed against such a team as they can turn our mistakes into points in a blink.


Georgia will test the Flying Fijians at set piece as they are strong and powerful in scrums, Lineouts and Mauls. While the Flying Fijians scrums have improved all credit to the Flying Fijians coaching staff, however the Georgians will test us at the lineout and if we allow them to set their much vaunted mauls we will have a very hard day at the office.

In fact, if there is any lapse in concentration and discipline, the Georgians will dominate. At maul set-up they seem to form a long shape and fast ball transfer which allows for a front break away system taking with them maul defenders, keeping the momentum going and remaining square on the retreating opposition all the while keeping the ball furthest from the closest defender. Georgia is very good at this.


Georgia is one team the Flying Fijians cannot take lightly. In our last two games, played in Fiji and then in Georgia, the Flying Fijians won in Suva then were beaten comfortably away, predominantly by powerful Georgian forward play.

Georgia is well known for their forward strength with the majority of their pack playing in professional Clubs throughout Europe.

Georgia run a simple lineout ball executed with speed. They play to their 12/13 centre field channel with starter plays then moving to the side line however a lot of midfield set piece plays can have two phases one way with one bounce-back play to catch undisciplined forwards not concentrating on their defensive roles.

Georgia execute this play at the back end of both halves when the opposition tires.

It is extremely important that the Flying Fijians don’t give the Georgians opportunity with field position. If they get the set piece advantage in good field position the Flying Fijians could find themselves in a bit of bother.

We should be aware of the type of kick returns we execute if Georgia kicks to us in particular from our exit zone as kicking it out on the full will play into their hands, allowing them to launch their much-vaunted set piece yet again in good mauling field position.


  1. Solid tight scrums for the full 80 minutes. Ensure minimal resets, the replacement front row player timings against a good scrum team will be important.
  2. Territory – we must play in Georgia’s half, in the case of penalties against us, Georgia’s opportunity to kick for goal or touch should be a safe distance away from an attacking lineout or maul zone; Georgia’s strength.
  3. Mauls – If we find ourselves in a Georgia attacking maul zone, all focus must be to stop Georgia’s maul execution before the maul is set. We must defensively prepare and attack the Georgian lineout as disrupting this part of the Georgian game will be extremely important to winning this vital game.
  4. Discipline – any indiscipline will give Georgia penalties which will allow them to take a scrum or a lineout dependant on field position. It is something we must minimise. Individual discipline on throwing 50/50 passes can cause mistakes allowing Georgia into the game by giving them an opportunity to launch from their strength – a scrum or lineout.


If the Flying Fijians get past Uruguay and Georgia, the Wales game will be a most important Test, regardless if we have success over the Wallabies or not.

The Wales vs Wallabies result will also play an important role in who finishes in 1st and 2nd place in our Pool and how they progress through to the quarterfinals.

Wales are the current 6 Nations and Grand Slam Champions after winning the 6 Nations title two years in a row. The win was Warren Gatland’s third triumph as Wales Head Coach and the RWC 2019 will be his last time in charge before he departs for New Zealand to head up the Chiefs programme to earn his Kiwi Super Rugby stripes and hopefully become a future All Blacks Head Coach.

Ironically the new Wales Head Coach is ex-Flying Fijians Head Coach, Wayne Pivac.


Wales are a complete side having players tried and tested against the best of the Northern Hemisphere teams, however on close analysis they do have some areas to exploit.

The Flying Fijians again will be challenged at the set Piece including the mauls. We need to be disciplined with possession and ensure we limit Wales the opportunity to launch their set piece strengths.

The Flying Fijians set piece will also need to be secure and strong to limit any penalties to Wales at scrum or lineout. It is well known that Wales’ defensive structure has been a huge part of their success in particular the lineout/mauling and ruck defensive structures.

How we implement our attacking structure to the Wales defensive set up will determine our success. A well-structured defensive system can at times win gamees.


  1. Solid tight scrums for the full 80 minutes. Ensure minimal resets, the replacement front row player timings against a good scrum team will be important.
  2. Ruck attack opportunities – The Flying Fijians strength is in general play; our set piece, even though improving, will be the opposition team’s focus.
  3. It is important that we are disciplined with possession, carry strong, cut out 50/50 passes or unnecessary kicking which will allow us to play to our strength.
  4. It is worth noting that in a first class game a team can have 10 to 15 set pieces maximum, however there are over 150 rucks to use as an opportunity to break a defensive structure.
  5. At rucks it is clear to see Wales don’t play with a kick/chip line defender, usually a 9 defends this line and tracks the opposition ball from ruck to ruck, waiting for a potential chip/kick through and a line break to also plug a D line space as required.
  6. Wales on the other hand play a two man 2nd line structure being the fullback and the open side Wing dropping back and moving infield in a pendulum structure which includes the other Wing when the openside changes, depending on the ruck field position. As clever a system as it is however, it leaves the space between the front defensive line and the second line vulnerable.
  7. Wales and probably all teams playing against us will implement a fast line speed defence to not allow the Flying Fijians time and space to launch our much vaunted backline where we are strong.
  8. Knowing the Wales ruck defence structure and to put doubt in a rush defence tactic, executing a well-planned kick or chip into that chip/kick line space early in the game will put doubt in the line speed tactic, allowing us some time and space as the game progresses. However, the game time and field position to execute such kicks will be important.

RWC 2019 in Japan will be one of the most competitive to date with many Tier 2 teams improving in leaps and bounds.

The off-field challenge in Izzy Folau facing the Wallabies, coupled with one of the best ever Flying Fijian teams to leave our shores for a RWC makes for a mouth-watering experience for all rugby supporters in Fiji and world wide.

To the Flying Fijians, stay grounded and take it one game at a time; Over confidence breeds complacency.

Go Fiji Go.

By Rayne Simpson – Kai Savusavu

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