Rugby

Dominiko Waqaniburotu Challenges Teammates To Step Up Ahead Of RWC

At the World Cup, McKee’s immediate goal is to reach the knockout stages of the competition.
02 Jul 2019 14:26
Dominiko Waqaniburotu Challenges Teammates To Step Up Ahead Of RWC
L-R: Flying Fijians head coach John Mckee with captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu. Photo: Simione Haravanua.

Fiji Airways Flying Fijians captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu has issued a challenge to his teammates ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan in September.

Waqaniburotu demanded his team put in the hard work in the build up to the showcase event, as Fiji prepares for the July 13 test against the New Zealand Maori in Suva.

The back-rower believes head coach John McKee has one of the best ever Fijian teams assembled for a World Cup at his disposal.

With both local and elite overseas-based players in the squad, Fiji has the potential to hurt tier-1 nations in Japan – something France found out last November in their 21-14 loss to the Fijians.

However, the 33-year-old captain says the talent in the squad will be meaningless if the players are not prepared to put in the hard work.

“I got to be positive about going forward, starting today and through our build up. We cannot focus on the RWC alone; we got to focus on the NZ Maori and the Pacific Nations Cup as well,” he said.

Waqaniburotu and McKee fronted the media yesterday to launch the training camp at Suva’s Grand Pacific Hotel yesterday.

Both were on the same page with ‘taking one game at a time’, improving fitness and building combinations to a level suitable for international matches.

At the World Cup, McKee’s immediate goal is to reach the knockout stages of the competition.

But Waqaniburotu believes the team’s odds of winning the overall title is just as good as anyone else.

Fiji is in Pool D alongside Australia, Georgia, Wales and Uruguay.

A 1st or 2nd placed finish will see them reach the knockout stages for the first time since 2007.

“Test match rugby is a highly-intensive game so fitness will be the overall theme of our programme, as well developing our technical skills and game plan,” McKee said.

“We expect to make gains in training from day one and very much looking forward to our opening game against the New Zealand Maori. Talent is one thing but the outcome of our preparations will depend on how hard we work.”

The Fijians will play six tests in the lead up to the RWC, starting with two matches against the NZ Maori (on July 13 and 20).

Training officially begins today at Albert Park in Suva before the team shifts camp to the western division until Friday.

A few players, such as London Irish duo Albert Tuisue and Alivereti Veitokani, are yet to join the squad. But McKee expects all players to be in camp by the end of the week.

Competition for places is also expected to be fierce and McKee faces a selection headache given the talent in the squad.

Since he took over in 2014, he has steadily developed the team with squad depth in mind.

As a result, Fiji has big-name players in every position.

For example, the Kiwi has named wingers Vereniki Goneva, Filipo Nakosi, Waisea Nayacalevu, Patrick Osbourne, Eroni Sau and Josua Tuisova in his extended squad.

All six are competent, proficient wingers capable of playing in the starting XV at any given time.

While that sort of depth is bound to foster healthy competition, McKee has called for everyone to work together towards the common goal of winning the World Cup.

“It’s not just players or coaches, it’s how everyone works together right throughout the campaign to make sure that as we get closer to leaving for Japan that we’re the best prepared team to leave our shores,” he said.

Edited by Osea Bola

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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