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How the Flying Fijians became 'an 80-minute team'

By Chris Jones
Wales v Fiji – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool C – Stade de Bordeaux

The Flying Fijians David Silvester has revealed the extensive back ground work that has underpinned the squad’s outstanding showing at the Rugby World Cup where they remain on course to reach the quarter-finals.

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Silvester, who previously worked with England, is the head of athletics performance and told the Fiji Times the management team trawled through extensive footage before setting out the plan that took in the Pacific Nations Cup where they remained unbeaten and the famous win 30-22 over England before heading to the World Cup in France where they narrowly lost 32-26 to Wales but defeated Australia 22-15.

The aim was to ensure the players could deliver their brand of rugby for 80 minutes and he said: “So we looked at a lot of games of all different areas – the Six Nations teams, Super Rugby teams, the Rugby Championship – and we looked at some of the real key areas that we knew we could affect.

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“So how long is the ball in play for? What are the work-to-rest ratios? How long is the phase before? What’s the average of one of those? What are the longest ones that we would be expected to play?

“From these, we worked out our training and our different conditioning work. And therefore we knew that if we could build a plan on that progressively and get to the World Cup having achieved those goals and aims, we knew we could become an 80-minute team.

“Their ability to soak up the work that we give the boys and their ability then to keep pushing even when there are times when some of the guys have probably struggled, they won’t give up and they’ll constantly keep pushing and pushing.

“We’ve seen the improvements that have stemmed from that, people have put that 100 per cent into everything we’ve asked them to do and they’ve improved. We’ve improved greatly over the whole of the nine weeks that we’ve been working together.

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“We’re all in this together, and we all want to be the best we possibly can, to constantly keep improving,” he said.

“We know that if each person’s trying their very best to improve then it will improve the group as a whole. Everybody buying into has helped push us along and take us to where we are at the moment. So it’s really fantastic and good.”

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Jon 2 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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