It hasn’t been a great World Cup from Fiji, purely from a numbers point of view.
The Pacific Islands have won just one of their four pool matches.
John McKee’s side were expected to push for a playoff spot but have instead found themselves well down the ladder in Pool D, likely ending 9 points short of the second-placed Australia.
Their campaign was effectively drained of any fuel when they collapsed against Uruguay in their second fixture of the competition.
Taking a more charitable approach, however, it’s becoming clearer every day why the Flying Fijians need to be playing top-tier opposition on the regular.
Continue reading below…
Their loss to Uruguay was a huge disappointment, but it came just days after Fiji almost managed to tip over Australia, having led the match for three-quarters of the game.
Fiji’s final clash, against the high-riding Welsh, was one of the fixtures of the tournament. Fiji again led for sizeable periods throughout the game and, despite their tournament being all but over, there was fire in their belly.
The Pacific Island sides have been neglected for far too long.
The Nations Championship was touted as a way to give the likes of Fiji and Japan greater opportunities against tier one sides but that was quashed by some unhappy campers north of the equator.
When the Nations Championship died, it was wrongly assumed that Fiji’s chances for a bigger slice of the pie were scuppered – but that overlooks the new-format Test calendar that will kick off from 2020.
In 2017, World Rugby first unveiled their plans for the Test season post the 2019 World Cup.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 10, 2019
Changes included moving the mid-year international matches from June to July, increasing tours by tier one nations to places like the Pacific Islands, Georgia and America, and introducing a “rotation principle that includes emerging rugby powers (which) will deliver greater schedule equity, promoting more meaningful, compelling fixtures and supporting World Rugby’s objective to increase the competitiveness of the global game”.
The impact of the new calendar is finally starting to make itself known, with Fiji potentially in-line to have a packed mid-year Test season in 2020.
Whilst a game in Fiji was an option, it appears that the fixture will be played in Australia due to the financial and logistical challenges of taking the game to the Pacific.
A game is also on the cards between Fiji and New Zealand in 2021.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Wales will play the All Blacks twice in 2020, with Scotland also touring for one match. Both those sides, as well as Ireland, will have to pad out their schedules to include three games each – which could mean we see games taken to the Pacific Islands.
Other options for tour destinations include Japan, South Africa or Argentina. The latter two, in particular, are significantly further afield than the likes of Fiji and Samoa.
One way or another, it looks like rugby in the Pacific is on the rise.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.