Fiji Rugby to work hard
08 March, 2012
The Flying Fijians currently lie 16th on the IRB world rankings, which places them in the lower half amongst the Tier 2 nations. The chances are that during the next 3 or 4 years their international matches will be against those teams immediately ranked above or below them.
Those preferred Tier 1 nations, where the money is to be made, no longer see Fiji as a 'crowd drawer'. Several reasons exist for this. Not only the poor showing in RWC 2011, but also the schedules for matches are decided well in advance, especially for the 'Top 8'. Fiji's match against England on the November tour to Europe was arranged some two or three years ago.
However a good showing this year will see Fiji climb right back up those rankings particularly if it performs well in the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) - likely to be hosted in Japan - and then see’s off the challenge of Scotland on 16 June.
The November Northern Hemisphere tour will involve that England match, plus an Ireland Wolfhounds encounter, a possible game against top invitational side the Barbarians and a trip to Georgia and there’s also talk of a possible first ever encounter against Russia.
Given the statement by the FRU board to concentrate the team selection on 'local players', the PNC, along with the match verses Scotland, will be the testing ground, and then the trip to Europe a chance to evaluate those local players against the Fijians already making their living in France and Great Britain.
The RWC 2015 will be based in England so the tour to Europe will see how players stand up to, what will be a 4 week trip. It will also test the organizational skills of the management team - Nadi to Moscow to London to Dublin back to London and then to Tbilisi and all the logistics that go with it.
So what of those potential European opponents – Russia and Georgia?
Russia, that slumbering giant, will host the Rugby 7s World Cup in 2014. A potential force on world rugby with the money to back it, but the size of the country and its climate make the task harder. They have dropped down to 22nd in the IRB list after recent defeats to Spain and Romania.
Georgia is known for the strength of its forwards. Most of their squad play in France; 20 or so of the RWC 2011 group play there, all be it most in Pro D2 and Fed 1, (level 3). They are coached by a Welshman, and currently lie 15th in the IRB rankings, one ahead of Fiji.
However it’s not only Georgia on Fiji’s mind as a number of countries are fast improving on the world scene and Fiji will need to work hard if it is to stay in front of these countries.
Russia (again) and the U.S.A. will invest heavily in the run up to the 2016 Olympics, be it 7s or 15s. Japan has the 2019 RWC, Georgia can only get stronger, and Canada and Romania will be there, or thereabouts. There’s no doubt that leading into this season and the next Fiji will have to work harder than ever before to hold its own among the increasing number of rugby heavyweights appearing on the horizon. Article courtesy of Marc Thompson