Finally Fiji get a run

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The pandemic has changed the structure of the Rugby Union season forever.

In an unprecedented move, Fiji have been included in an end of season eight nations tournament with the big guns of Europe

The tournament has been created for one year only and promises to be a fantastic prospect for players and fans alike. The competition will include Fiji, England, France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy and until recently Japan who look to be replaced by Georgia or South Africa.

When will the 8 nations take place

The Eight Nations is scheduled for a November 14 kickoff. The exact fixtures have not been finalised.

Japan are out

It’s official. Japan have opted out of the competition due to COVID restrictions. Likely replacements are either South Africa or Georgia at this point.

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Finally, Fiji get a run

Four games against top opposition. Usually Fiji would have to wait for every World Cup to get a similar schedule and sadly, it took a pandemic for Fiji to be given a decent run.

The Six Nations Championship is an attritional competition played during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months. The Eight Nations though will be played in the Autumn, when the conditions are slightly better and will give our boys a better chance to play their natural game.

The Groups

Fiji will join England, Wales, and Ireland in one group with France, Scotland, Italy and Georgia/South Africa in the other. Each nation will play their three group counterparts with a fourth and final match against the nation in their equivalent position in the other group.

There has been some criticism by Fiji head coach Vern Cotter about the way the groups have been arranged. Fiji are in a tough group with three teams who are very high up in the World rankings. “I just wonder how we got into the pool with England, Wales and Ireland when Japan, Italy and Scotland are all lower in the world rankings.”

And he is absolutely on the money. Yes, beggars can’t be choosers but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the groups lack balance!

Teams ranked 3,4,6 and 11th as opposed to 5,8,9 and 14. Now it looks very likely that Japan will be replaced by Georgia, who are ranked 12th, tipping the scales even more especially when you consider that Fiji have defeated all four sides in the opposite group in the last four years. Should the Springboks fill the vacant spot left by the Brave Blossoms, it would somewhat even out the groups.

The gameplan

Fijian rugby is free flowing and played at high speed. Fijians have great hands and are the best in the world at delivering the right pass at the right time and keeping the ball alive with impressive offloads out of the tackle. Vern Cotter’s side will need to maintain a fast and consistent tempo for large parts of its games. To avoid getting into battles upfront, the ball needs to be moved away from the collision areas quickly.

Whilst Fiji have the class to match their Europeans counterparts in the forwards battle, this is the Six Nations sides bread and butter, this is exactly where they would want the Fijians.

Traditionally the Six Nations sides play a very structured game plan where set piece, defensive domination, tactical kicking and high levels of fitness are so important. In Vern Cotter, the Flying Fijians have a great coach with a wealth of experience of European rugby through his time coaching club rugby in France and International rugby with Scotland.

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He will be more than aware of what’s required to beat the Six Nations sides and it will be interesting to see what approach he will take, what changes he makes to the Flying Fijians playing structure and style and if he realistically can make any changes at all given the time frame.

Unusual Preparation

As mentioned earlier, fitness will be a crucial factor for all the teams in the competition. Preparation in the build up to the November tournament has been unusual in that, for the last couple of months many of the players have had another pre-season and are fitter and fresher than they might have otherwise been.

The players that will make up the Flying Fijians side play in Europe and are back playing again after a long period of lockdown. By the time the competition starts any rustiness will be gone and they will be match fit although it should be mentioned England, Wales and Ireland will all have played a match before Fiji run out for their first.

Who’s available?

Flying Fijians talisman Leone Nakarawa will be back training with the Glasgow Warriors over the next few weeks and will probably lead the side. Nemani Nadolo although retired from International duties, is reportedly considering a comeback for the tournament if needed. Whether Frank Lomani is given the green light to travel to the UK for the tournament is yet to be confirmed. We have put together a possible side for the tournament below.

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A truly exciting prospect awaits the teams in the Eight Nations. This competition has never been played before and will never be played again. It is a complete one off. Fiji along with either of Georgia or South Africa will be taking on the Six nations teams in their own back yard and they will fancy their chances to give them a bloody nose.

Fiji have been banging on the door for too long and have finally been given an opportunity. The teams that make up the Southern Hemispheres Rugby Championship is yet to be determined and this is the perfect audition for the Flying Fijians to show their credentials and state their case for inclusion.

The 8 Nations will be a unique and fascinating competition and we can’t wait for it to begin.

Join in the conversation

Are you excited about the upcoming 8 nations tournament? How do you think our boys will fare? Join in the conversation and drop a comment below.

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