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'Fit and tactically astute': Fiji hitting World Cup in dangerous form

By Ned Lester
Selestino Ravutaumada and Fiji celebrate a try. Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup pools have been a huge talking point leading into the 2023 fixture and now just 28 days out, fans have their clearest picture yet of how teams are tracking for the tournament.


While The Rugby Championship offered the southern hemisphere’s tier-one nations their final preparations before heading to Europe, the Pacific Nations Cup offered the likes of Tonga, Samoa, Japan and Fiji a launchpad to hit France fit and firing.

Fiji emerged from the Pacific Nations Cup victorious after a clean sweep was confirmed in a 35-12 win over Japan.

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The win was far from lacking in Flying Fijian extravagance with numerous tries disallowed on top of the 35-point tally. But it was the other areas that impressed former All Black James Parsons.

“What I saw from Fiji against Japan, they are fit and tactically astute,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“Some of their exits and discipline to exit, there was a red card and they got maybe a little bit carried away with trying to play too much but if they can keep that discipline they showed in that first 20-30 minutes against Japan, they’re a well-oiled machine. Benny Volavola, man he is running a good cutter so I think they’re a chance.”

Volavola has since been left out of Fiji’s World Cup squad in favour of Caleb Muntz and Teti Tela, both of whom impressed in prior PNC matches.



The loss cemented Japan’s fate, with an unflattering third-place finish piling on further misery from the resounding losses ceded at the hands of the All Blacks XV just weeks earlier.

The alarming results paint a stark picture for Jamie Joseph’s side who face perhaps the most competitive pool in the World Cup, squaring off with England, Argentina, Samoa and Chile.

“Two games of that Pacific Cup they lost a red card early which doesn’t help,” Parsons added. “But the Fijian pack just monstered them. Like, monstered.”

Japan’s teams have in recent campaigns made a name for themselves as World Cup wildcards, claiming historic wins over South Africa and Ireland in the 2015 and 2019 tournaments respectively.


Now, England and Argentina sit as favourites to qualify for the quarter-final stages and Samoa have even leapfrogged Japan in the World Rugby rankings.


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Warner 338 days ago

Pacific Teams under the radar , they've taken some big scalps last two RWCs , they could ruin the dreams of others in ther pools.

Michael 338 days ago

These results show that they would get a hammering in the rugby championship at present. They've lost momentum after a great world Cup. 2 Japan teams in Super Rugby might help, plus a new tournament with an All Black 15's and Australia Pacific team, and Pacific nations and a couple of Americas teams might aid their development to Rugby championship. Need to win something like this firstly. They still need to be in the championship at some stage. Fiji might be more competitive at present though.

victor 338 days ago

Imagine if NZ wouldn't block their involvement the Rugby championship.

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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