Fiji with eyes on World Cup qualifiers after Wallabies

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Fiji coach John McKee is looking at the bigger picture after Saturday’s loss to the Wallabies.

Their 37-14 defeat is the first of five mid-year Tests that they will play, with the final two against Samoa and Tonga ultimately deciding their 2019 Rugby World Cup pool.

Winning that Oceania tournament would pit them against the Wallabies in the 2019 Rugby World Cup and McKee said topping that competition was their main goal.

“Every week we play, we go out to win Test matches, that’s what we’re they’re for but the eye is on the big goal at the end and we’ve got to make sure we’re developing our game,” he said.

“Next week we’ll have a few players back so we’ll have a stronger squad to choose from.”

Beaten by a more ‘clinical’ Wallabies side, McKee said there was plenty of reason for optimism for his side, with some big stars set to return to their line up in the coming weeks.

Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne will link up with the squad after the Kiwi club takes on the Lions, while mammoth Toulon back Josua Tuisova will also be in Fiji this week after playing in the Top 14 final.

Fiji hosts Italy and Scotland in the coming weeks and with that bolstered lineup, McKee said Italy looked like the mostly likely scalp as they work towards World Cup qualifiers in July, but there would be no danger of any complacency.

“When you look at the rankings and you look at the recent performances, you would think that Italy could be a weaker opposition but I don’t like to say that,” he said.

“We’ve really got to concentrate on playing our game. Our challenge this week will be working on a few areas of our game that we know we didn’t execute so well today and make sure we rectify that for next week.

“The way Italy play, I believe we’ll have opportunity in the wider channels if we can get the ball there quickly.

“Also, I’d expect Italy to probably kick the ball to us more than Australia does, which will create counterattack opportunities, which can be a point of difference. We look forward to this next game with some confidence.

Ben Volavola said Saturday's match was a learning experience. Photo: WalmsleyFiji flyhalf Ben Volavola said the Melbourne clash was a crucial learning experience for a new generation of players, in a team that included three debutants.

“We’ve got young guys coming through and it was great exposure for them and for the rest of the squad,” he said.

“Now, we’ve got things to work on, which is a positive and individuals stood up here this afternoon and we’ve got to look forward to next week and putting up a good performance against Italy.”

Fiji return home on Sunday ahead of next week’s clash with Italy.