Rugby Championship inclusion would be massive - Fiji coach
Following Fiji’s famous 22-15 win over the Wallabies in Pool C on Sunday, kicking ocach Seremaia Bai has reflected on what was a historic occasion and highly structured and clinical performance.
Bai, who played 53 times for his country, spoke on Monday about how the Fijian Drua’s rise to prominence in recent years has positively impacted the team’s progress.
“I think it has massively. You can see the result yesterday. Previously we have our domestic competition, the Skipper Cup – provincial local comp in Fiji. We select local based players from there and then you try and match them with the professionals [who play] overseas. There’s no real professionalism at the local comp, it has taken a bit of time for them to adjust.
“With Drua you see not only do they try and educate them around being professional, they also give them game time, quality game time at the super level I think it’s a massively positive for the development of rugby and you can see the way most of the boys who played in the Drua it’s really improved the performance of the team.”
Late in the game against Australia, Fiji got a penalty that they could have easily kicked out for a guaranteed win, but instead opted to go for the posts and try to get the Wallabies out of that losing bonus point territory. It missed, but Bai said that they are certainly aware of how crucial the points will be in a tight pool.
“Definitely, that’s the reason the boys opted for a late penalty which didn’t go our way. We will have a team meeting soon and we will talk about the different scenarios we will come up against. We will make sure we take it game-by-game,” he said.
Try scored Josua Tuisova limped off in the 67th minute with what appeared to be a lower limb injury.
“It’s a just slight roll [his ankle] injury for him, we have a bye week so it gives more time to recover. But in terms of [the team], all players are just niggling from yesterday’s physicality.”
After two really impressive performances in a row, including nearly beating Wales the week before, there is suddenly talk of inclusion in The Rugby Championship.
“Definitely, it would be a massive, massive boost for such a small country as Fiji,” said of the prospect.
“If you want to be the best you have to play with the best and New Zealand and Australia are not far away from Fiji. I think you have seen the local boys playing for Drua, the second year they managed to reach the quarter-final so imagine how we can perform as a national team consistently.
“I’ll give you an example, I played for Fiji for probably 14 years but I only played 53 Test matches. As guys from Australia and New Zealand they may only play six years and manage to play 100 Test matches. You can see the difference between gaining that experience versus the tier-two nation where we always struggle to be competing sustainably at the highest level. We need to have a crack and participate.”
As we’ve seen with the likes of Samoa, Bai says that the new eligibility laws will certainly benefit Fiji in the future.
“It will be a big bonus because I think players who played previously in tier-one nations such as All Blacks and Australia coming back would give us and the Fijian boys the mindset that they learn from. It will be a benefit for the players and the environment but do keep in mind we have a lot of young local talent. That’s the beauty of rugby in Fiji, the amount of talent we have.”
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