Rugby | SPORTS

Battered Fijians Vow They Are Not Finished Yet After Early Setback

Beaten, bruised, a bit battered but quite unbowed, the Vodafone Flying Fijians packed their bags for a move to Wales yesterday, still believing that their Rugby World Cup 2015 dream
21 Sep 2015 10:05
Battered Fijians Vow They Are Not Finished Yet After Early Setback
Nemani Nadolo on the attack against England. Photo: World Rugby

Beaten, bruised, a bit battered but quite unbowed, the Vodafone Flying Fijians packed their bags for a move to Wales yesterday, still believing that their Rugby World Cup 2015 dream was far from shattered following their opening night defeat by hosts England.

Captain Akapusi Qera, insisted that, despite his lads’ disappointment about missed opportunities at Twickenham, they were far from downhearted and still believed they could do some “damage” when they tackle Australia in Cardiff on Thursday.

The quick turnaround to face a fresh Australia in the Wallabies’ opening game is hardly ideal for John McKee’s side. As well as nursing their usual share of cuts and bruises after what the coach called a “very physical” test, they had to move from their Surrey base in Weybridge to Swansea in south Wales on Sunday.

Qera was nursing a bandaged right hand but shrugged it off as just a minor “niggle” and was adamant that, just like the rest of Saturday’s team, he had no injury concerns for the Australia game.

 

Done Fiji proud

The team had trooped back to their hotel past midnight on Saturday (Sunday) morning but after eating a meal together and receiving plenty of messages of congratulation from their compatriots telling them that they had done Fiji proud, their spirits were lifted.

There was plenty to be cheerful about despite the 37-11 scoreline which somewhat flattered England. For a start, they felt humbled to have been part of such a memorable opening night at one of the world’s great cathedrals of sport and to have played their part so stirringly.

“For most of the boys, it was the first time for them to experience the sell-out Twickenham crowd and to be part of that occasion was a massive boost in their rugby career,” Qera said.

“So they were really happy about that and we have to take enjoyment out of it in order to focus again for the game ahead against Australia. If we are going to feel sorry for ourselves about this England game for the next few days, it won’t do any good for us.”

Of course, the defeat damages Fiji’s hopes of qualifying from the tournament’s most competitive pool but McKee reckoned it had not been a fatal blow.

“We are disappointed, we’ve got high ambitions. We’ve got a very good team with very talented players. But we move on, the pool wasn’t won and lost last night and a lot of things are going to happen in the next few rounds.

“We’re not going to sit down today and say ‘can we qualify?’, we’re going to concentrate on our next game against Australia and focus on getting the things right that we need to for our next challenge.”

 

Hard lesson

Yet he felt Fiji had to learn one particularly hard lesson. “There were just critical moments in the game when we made mistakes – a turnover, a penalty against, a loose kick to give the ball back to the opposition – and at the highest level of the game, good teams are going to punish you for those. England scored a lot of points on the back of our mistakes.”

Some of those mistakes involved wayward goalkicking, with McKee accepting that, if Ben Volavola and Nemani Nadolo had not spurned four chances between them, it may have given the game a very different complexion in the last quarter before England powered away.

Many were surprised that it was Volavola and not Nadolo, the kicker of nine out of nine in their last test against Canada, who was given the initial duties that saw him miss two early penalty opportunities.

Yet McKee explained: “It’s the players’ call on the pitch who takes the kick. They’d both been kicking all week and we let them decide and Ben probably felt he was kicking a bit better than Nemani during the week. His first kick hit the post; it wasn’t as if it was poor kick.”

Feedback:  oseab@fijisun.com.fj

 

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