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Lessons Learnt, 2022 To Be Better: Vern Cotter

Flying Fijians head coach Vern Cotter tells about the 2021 season; lessons learnt, the many challenges and how things can be made better in 2022.
03 Jan 2022 12:26
Lessons Learnt, 2022 To Be Better: Vern Cotter
Flying Fijians head coach, Vern Cotter with players during last November’s Autumn Nations Cup in Paris, France. Photo: Planet Rugby

It has been a tough season for rugby. The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our Flying Fijians preparations for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

In an interview with Flying Fijians head coach Vern Cotter, he spoke at length about the 2021 season; lessons learnt, challenges faced and how things can be made better in 2022.

SUNSports: This year we played five Test matches – won 1, drew 1 and lost 3, what’s your view of our overall performance?

COTTER: Great energy and purpose in the first match against the All Blacks – got close but we don’t realise yet the potential we have.
Leadership from Levani Botia was great; he is a hard-nosed warrior and sets a good example.

Second All Blacks test: we pushed during the week for the team to improve. Disappointing performance really because we set high standards, the All Blacks picked their best team and we didn’t lift our game to match them. There were too many errors.

Not enough maturity within the group to grasp the importance of backing up two top performances. On a positive note, some young players showed talent and character. (Moses) Sorovi, Teti (Tela), (Eroni) Mawi, (Seta) Tuicuvu to name a few.

Slow start against Spain, better second half.

Wales, I believe there was an enormous opportunity to win, they we not at their best but once again we gave them enough to let the game slide from our grasp.

The physical power we generate is impressive, teams struggle with it. Let’s be clear if we can keep work rate and accuracy for 80 minutes we will be difficult to beat.

Against Georgia, it was disappointing.

Fiji Airways Flying Fijians first five eighth, Ben Volavola attempt a tackle during their Test against the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, on July 10, 2021. Photo: All Blacks Rugby

Fiji Airways Flying Fijians first five eighth, Ben Volavola attempt a tackle during their Test against the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, on July 10, 2021. Photo: All Blacks Rugby

SUNSports: What were some of the major challenges you encountered as head coach?

COTTER: There were so many!
Not being able to travel to Europe following the series against the All Blacks was hard for me and our coaching group. There are so many learnings from that, what need to be pursued.

Concentration, discipline, Tight 5 work in dark places, confidence in our strengths to be worked on. Believe in our ability. Take away everything we give to the opposition like penalties and yellow cards.

We need to developing lucidity in pressure situations and so on.
But we thrive on challenges!

SUNSports: Name your three standout players and why?

COTTER: Botia for his character and competitiveness.
Waisea (Nayacalevu) for his role as captain and try scorer in Europe.
(Sam) Matavesi for his core skills and consistency.

SUNSports: Any disappointments? What were they?

COTTER: Drawing the game against Georgia- hasn’t shown a shift in learnings together yet.

SUNSports: Which positions are still a concern to you and how are you going to tackle it?

COTTER: Numbers 9 and 10 and 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Super Rugby will give us a number of players, it is the competition we need to perform consistently in.

SUNSports: What major changes should we expect in 2022?

COTTER: Competition for positions

SUNSports: What is your level of expectations of the players?

COTTER:: To develop new habits that will give us more opportunities to be competitive at the top level.

SUNSports: With the change in eligibility rules for the players are there going to be surprises? Please elaborate if yes?

COTTER: Exciting for Fiji rugby, will provide more depth and competition for positions going to the Rugby World Cup 2023.

Feedback: leonec@fijisun.com.fj



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