Opinion | SPORTS

Try Nikola Matawalu At Fullback

Our halfback turned winger is not new to fullback and could be our match winner at the Rugby World Cup
30 Jul 2019 17:24
Try Nikola Matawalu At Fullback
Nikola Matawalu.


Last Saturday, the All Blacks moved Beauden Barrett to fullback as head coach Steve Hansen explored ways of adding more punch to their attacks.

Wallabies coach, Michael Cheika even tested rookie Tom Banks in the position during their Rugby Championship opener in Johannesburg but last Saturday, he fell back on veteran Kurtley Beale.

This shows the coaches’ desire to find someone who is not only strong in defence, ability to land those long touch finders, good in positional play but be able to launch counter attacks from the back.

I call it the X-factor.

From the matches played so far the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians are in real need of such fullback. Someone who can frustrate the opposition by creating something out of nothing.

Unfortunately, one we had hoped for Timoci Nagusa, has retired.

Nagusa showed his class during the World Cup qualifiers against Tonga in 2017, when unexpectedly, inside his 22m line spied on a gap and zig zagged his way through to combine with Patrick Osborne, who created the gap for Leone Nakarawa to bolt over for the winning try.

It’s that X-factor thing!

So far, Kini Murimurivalu is doing whatever is required of him, which is good, but there’s nothing spectacular at all after that. Similarly, Alivereti Veitokani is trying his best to settle into the position but whether he’ll be able to deliver what is expected of him at the Rugby World Cup, is something that we cannot guarantee.

Then we have Clermont’s Seta Tuicuvu who has impressed McKee during the Top 14 comp but however, he’s yet to get a run. The Moala, Nadi native started against Scotland last November but he only lasted for about 10 minutes when he got injured.

So, he’s of an unknown quality.

Then we’ve Josh Matavesi around and even Ben Volavola- but preferably Ben is much better at No.10.

But if there is someone we could turn to for the No.15 jumper then why not try out Nikola Matawalu!

Yes, Nikola the halfback who later moved to wing while playing for the Glasgow Warriors and he has won heaps of praises from his coach Dave Rennie. We all know what Nikola is capable of with his speed off the mark, defence, kicking skills and ability to read the game from the back and exploit the opposition’s defence.

Although he’s still under an injury cloud, playing at fullback is nothing new to him.

In 2013- 2014 former Flying Fijians coach, Inoke Male often switched Nikola to fullback when they fought back to beat the Classic All Blacks 33-14 in Suva.

Then again, he used Nikola at fullback when they won the Pacific Nations Cup in Japan,

Nikola stepped in for the injured Nagusa, and did wonders from the back as he time and again set-up burly winger Nemani Nadolo to run in tries.

There’s no harm in trying him out at fullback but if we do, then Nikola is surely not going to disappoint.

Feedback: leonec@fijisun.com.fj

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