Analysis | SPORTS

Flying Fijians’ Fitness ‘To Withstand Heat’ Is Key To Rugby World Cup Glory

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph told Kyodo News that a major factor of their win was on their level of fitness.
29 Jul 2019 16:34
Flying Fijians’ Fitness ‘To Withstand Heat’ Is Key To Rugby World Cup Glory
Fiji Airways Flying Fijian hooker Sam Matavesi (with ball) in a forward drive against Japan at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in the Iwate Prefecture, Japan on July 27, 2019. Photo: Kenji Demura

Analysis:

The Fiji Airways Flying Fijians must work hard on their fitness if they are to stand a chance of qualifying to the quarterfinals of the September Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Playing under the intense heat, the Fijians had to learn the hard way from the 34-21 drubbing from Japan at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in the Iwate Prefecture last Saturday.

According to the Japan Times, the temperature also took a toll on a number of spectators, with prefectural officials reporting that eight people were taken from the stadium and its surroundings to hospitals to be treated for heat exhaustion.

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph told Kyodo News that a major factor of their win was on their level of fitness.

This, the former Super Rugby winning coach says, was best exemplified by lock Luke Thompson who played the full 80 minutes in sweltering heat and humidity, despite being 38 years and 102 days- he was the oldest player to ever represent Japan.

He further indicated that they used their fitness as a weapon to suffocate the Flying Fijians.

He said the team found success by opting not to kick the ball in play, a tactic he envisioned would extinguish the Fijians’ open-play firepower.

“We didn’t want to kick the ball in the first half unless we kicked it out. We are playing Fiji, which is one of the best teams in the world when it comes to unstructured play,” he said.

“We had all the ball and that obviously frustrated Fiji, they couldn’t get into their natural game, running at us, offloading, creating opportunities, line breaking. It was certainly what we wanted to do today, I think the leaders were able to implement that plan.”

It is understood that Flying Fijians head coach John McKee is unhappy with the fitness level of a couple of overseas-based players.

That is why strength and conditioning coach, John Pryor is working around the clock to whip these players into shape.

After the loss at Kamaishi, a few members of the 2007 RWC team that beat Wales 38-34 to qualify for the quarterfinals took to Facebook to express their concern and for the team to work hard on their fitness.

The former players highlighted the need for the Flying Fijians to take on their sand dunes and use Lawaqa Park, Sigatoka as their training ground.

The 2007 RWC team under coach, Ilivasi Tabua used the sand dunes for their daily training sessions before moving to Lawaqa Park to do their ball work or to use the gym.

Rated as one of our fittest national teams to play at the RWC, it was the renowned Fijian flair that took out Japan, Canada and Wales in the pool games before they gave eventual RWC winners South Africa a scare in the quarters by coming from behind to hol them 20-20 midway in the second half. The Springboks managed to run away with a 37-20.

The next few weeks is crucial in our preparations and if there’s one thing McKee should base his final selection on, then it has to be on fitness.

Edited by  Sheldon Chanel

Feedbackleonec@fijisun.com.fj

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