RWC Super show



Salute to the Flying Fijians for trying their utmost best at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in the United Kingdom.

It was gripping and top of the shelf excitement levels in Fiji for about 20 days in which our gallant warriors played four matches in the Pool from Hell which included three giants namely Australia, England and Wales. It’s a well told and widely published story on how this pool was drawn – but water under the bridge for now. World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper has said that the draws were made way out early and he’ll see that this changes for Japan 2019.

But what were the Flying Fijians expecting – a better pool with more rest days between games. Flashback! In 2011 – our side failed to clinch a direct qualification spot because they won one of four pool games and finished fourth, thus they had to beat the Cook Islands and grab the Pacific spot as a qualifier. RWC history shows that the qualifying teams are always dealt a tougher draw and pathway in the tournament. Expect no cherry favours for Japan 2019 because all Pacific heavyweights will be fighting it out in qualifying rounds – and I would hate to think back to 1995 qualifying matches.
Kudos! Did the Flying Fijians have an excellent forward play and showed promise at scrums, lineouts and breakdowns? As Vude King Seru Serevi related a story on how his village people lit up an early morning in Rewa when the Fijians won a mighty scrum against the Wallabies – but that’s all emotions been over-spilled.

Aren’t we Fijians known to be full of emotions when it comes to rugby or national matters? And mostly we forget to see the reality. For most our boys had an outstanding tournament – totally agree. They threw their bodies on the line but fell short. Now stop and think for a while – Intentions matter more than results of our action OR the results of our actions matter more than intentions.


It was tough having to play England in the opening game of the RWC and follow that up just after 4 days against the Wallabies, which was also their first game. Tough deal!

Our team won hearts in that 11-35 mauling against England. Now you’ll question – why mauling? England enjoyed territory advantage 62 to 38%, held more possession 59 to 41%, made 11 to our 2 clean line breaks and ball carries over gain line favored the home side 51 to 26 meters.

Hooray! Where did we outclass England at Twickenham in front of 80k crowd? The Flying Fijians won 7 of 13 scrums and England lost 3 of their own feed.

Now if anything – I think our side stood up to the challenge against Australia in the second match loss 13-28, amid all the hoo-hah about rest between games. Fiji dominated territory 53 to 47%, possession 53 to 47%, pivot Ben Volavola grew in stature and made two super clean line breaks, one produced a try, Australia lost one scrum and Fiji stole 3 lineouts.

A lot of die-hard fans brought out their calculators and started spreading the word on possible scenarios and believing that Fiji had a chance mathematically to make the top 8 – fairly maybe yes – they did have a slim chance? But in the third match Wales were smarting after beating England and they knew the Dragons needed one more win to make the quarterfinals – it was too big a match to let slip and any thoughts of the heroics of that 2007 team in Nantes, France were buried in Cardiff. Wales defeated Fiji 23-13 and hammered Fiji in territory 67 to 33% and also enjoyed more possession 59 to 41%. Once again our forwards defeated Wales in scrums by winning two from their feed.


I’ve always pointed out that Rugby needs all 23 players in this modern day game to play 80 minutes at top pace and hope for the best result. But I would have to pick towering Kadavu man who mostly calls Vatukoula as his home – Leone Nakarawa as the unsung hero of the 2015 RWC. I remember when he broke into the national team and I got to interview him on TV for the first time – i told my cameraman from Lautoka – watch this big fella go, he’ll be a star player in the future. Nakarawa, classed as the Fijian off-loads king will be my top choice for captain – propelling the Fijians towards Japan in four years, in 2019 he’ll be 31 and in line with current form – he’ll be the ideal leader and probably ready for his swan song at the showpiece event.

There were others that surely need mention – the forwards deserve the praise along with Nikola, Nadolo, Volavola, Botia, Goneva and Tokoirotuma. We have set a bench mark and we must go forward from here and there are no chances for slip ups.


Our forwards coach and scrum specialist need to be paid a bonus. In a country, classed as a tier 2 rugby side, money can’t become the only motivation and pride and passion plays a key role. Most fans are singing praises of the head coach but I feel he didn’t play some key players in the right positions. I’m sure the coaching staff had a plan and they followed that BUT I would have swapped Goneva with Nadolo – at least in the second spell of the first game and start him at 13 against the Wallabies. While, Ben got the nod at 10 – I think he grew by leaps in that jersey as the RWC progressed but the pivot needs to do more and hold more command and maybe it wasn’t his time right now – yes, give him a few seasons in New Zealand’s South Island and he will mature and rise to become the top choice fly half. I’m surprised as to why Botia wasn’t included in the 23 in the first two games. Did you see what he did to Hale T-Pole of Tonga at Laucala Bay during the PNC? The head coach said that he went with his tried and trusted – so what happened to Lovobalavu in the final two games? He fell out of favour or I missed an injury report.

Now raise your hand if you thought bench players were introduced late in the match.

I haven’t missed a game at the RWC this year and also had to go back to match reports on internet to verify how the tier one nations were changing their front row players after about 55 minutes. Fiji stuck to their front row ‘stars’ for 70 plus minutes. Once again while the coaching staff knows better – I felt they didn’t trust and have faith on the bench players.

I hear the head coach is linked with Japan. If he takes up that post, the powers at Rugby House should work hard and try and lure Frans Ludeke for the top job. He won two Super Rugby titles in 2009 & 2010 with the Bulls of South Africa and his input since joining the Fijians in July has been incredible.

Opportunities & Chances

I guess every rugby loving person who supported the Flying Fijians will acknowledge that we had the opportunities in every game against the tier one teams but we failed to capitalize and turn those opportunities into points – that matters.

We missed that crucial kick at goal, count back if that kick went over – that could have changed the course of the match or did we kick when we would have been better with a pass – did kicking possession away pin the side under pressure in defense. There are many questions which a RWC review report must contain – this should be read and digested for a better outing in the future.

One of the lines that I used in a few kava gatherings goes like – you ask a Fijian child running in diapers today, some 20 years later on the 2015 RWC, he’d say Fiji lost 3 games and didn’t make the quarters. How simple?

I must say that I was disappointed with Tonga and Samoa as pre-RWC I had picked Fiji would win one match in pool but had placed my bet on our Pacific neighbours and believed the draw was on their side to make the top 8.

I take my hat off for my team of the pool stages – the Brave Cherry Blossoms – While covering the RWC 2003, I made friends with a few Japanese fans who were in the same hotel in Townsville, Australia. There I learnt first-hand the passion and pride that the fans had for their side. Amazing! And when I watched the input from Australian Eddie Jones translated on the pitch against South Africa (biggest shock result in the history of RWC) – fantastic and indeed they are brave and smart. Japan lived a dream of a nation and if you meet a Japanese half a century later, he’ll say to you – I’m proud of that 2015 RWC team – they won 3 games and took the scalp of South Africa.

Japan has a professional set up and a structure that supports the growing sport which still plays as back stage when compared to Sumo Wrestling, Baseball and Football. While covering the PNC I was fortunate to visit Japan on a few occasions and saw how University level rugby and academies were built on strong foundations where they had sponsors for their on-field signages, full playing and training kit sponsors to even boots and casual wear.

While there are positives to take out from the 2015 campaign – the 2007 RWC campaign still remains our best shot and we hope we’ll get the right mix and hit 2019 with a better show. But yes, first, our side will have to crank a good qualification result to reach Tokyo.

Finances & Ambitions

Fiji will always be cash-strapped. The FRU is still trying to clear RWC bills for some areas. The story hasn’t changed since 1987 and I don’t see an end to the financial woes in the near future.

It’s tough work at the Rugby House to get things organized and you must give credit to the hard working folk who I’m sure had sleepless nights and running numbers in their mind even if they managed to sleep. You have a budget of $5m to the RWC – you need to plan and design your plans accordingly with all stakeholders to pitch in.

The state plays its part and I hope we can squeeze a bit more for the sport we all love in budget allocations. I also firmly believe serious sponsors needs to be found and we need at least $3m cash for 7s each year and up to $4m cash for 15s each season to be on par. And that’s on a thin budget for national teams only.

Or how about a sports tax – did you notice how many people were involved with their 5cents worth on social media – let’s all agree to get $5 deducted from your salary to go towards Fiji 7s and 15s.

Big results require big ambitions.

Now I certainly enjoyed the Golf on TV from Natadola and can’t wait to watch the finals of the World Cup.

by Satish Narain

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