Rankings, Friendlies and Bonding
29 July, 2011
|Team mates in France and Fiji - (:-R) Sakiusa Matadigo and Timoci Nagusa. |
Fiji's loss to Japan in the Pacific Nations Cup earlier this month was about numbers in more than one way. From 15 to 12 on the field, also meant 12 to 14 off it and the cost was not just national pride. By dropping from 12th to 14th, in the IRB world rankings Fiji risks losing fixtures against 'Tier 1' rugby nations. The Autumn matches against 6 Nations countries may become something of the past.
Why? Because those nations use the Autumn 'Tests' to make money and that involves filling the stadiums. They are not going to want to play teams that are no longer a 'crowd-drawer'.
Let's look at the IRB rankings system; started in 2003 after the RWC in Australia, it links the performances of international teams - something that equates to a league table - from New Zealand at the top, all the way down to Finland in 92nd place. Points are awarded/deducted according to the results, points difference, the team played and the location of the match.
In October 2003, Fiji were ranked 11th in the world with a points rating of 72.45. Over the subsequent eight years there have been the highs and lows, 9th in 2007 after their exploits in France, and again in September 2009, with a points high of 76.52. The current 14th (and 71.52) is the lowest position to date.
Thus it is crucial the Flying Fijians not only start winning again, beginning with the two Tests against Tonga, but also perform in New Zealand, at the World Cup where ranking points 'count double'. Tonga can be overtaken, along with Japan and Italy, who meet each other in two weeks.
The latter match is testament to Japan's progress, climbing 10 places in the last seven years. The Tongans have also worked their way up the ladder, having been as low as 20th, with less than 63 points. It should be noted that this year the PNC involved 4 equally matched teams. Fiji suffered, ranking wise being the host nation. Pre-season Friendlies
Back in France, those not involved in the RWC, are starting their pre-season 'friendlies'.
Newly promoted Lyon play Toulon this week-end, the first of five meetings, as the clubs have been drawn together in the Amlin challenge cup. So Gabby Lovobalavu , Sisa Koyamaibole and company will be seeing a lot of each other over the next few months.
The season kicks off at the end of August, with stars of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) returning in time for the first round of the 'H' cup in November. There will be full coverage of results from France and the U.K. throughout the season, together with features and photos on Flying Fijians involved. Bonding
Finally, a few thoughts on training camps and 'bonding sessions', be it at club level, or for the international squads in the run-up to the RWC.
They started to appear with the advent of the professional era, and last for 3-7 days for clubs, who intergrate it into the pre-season fitness and conditioning programme.
For the international squads, up to 4 weeks are spent together, to include Test matches against other nations. The French like the mountains, the English, linking up with the Army or Marine commandos, while the Welsh take themselves off to places like Poland.
Those injured 'Boks', 20+ at the last count, go to 're-hab', and not a training camp if the press releases are to be believed.
Either way, and whatever the destination and activity, the idea is to get the players to think and work together as a single unit, so that when 'up against the wall', each player puts himself on the line. That's how Samoa beat Australia, and like-wise how Fiji beat Wales in 2007.
Hopefully you will see that unity amongst the Flying Fijians in their up-coming matches.