Editorial comment – Exciting rugby prospect

Jale Vatubua fires out a pass as Ben Volavola comes in to defend during the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians training at Albert Park earlier this week. Picture: JONA KONATACI

THE stage is set for an exciting rugby Test this afternoon in Suva.

There can be no doubts about the impact this match has had on Fijian fans.

The hype is building up, aided by our victory over France late last year.

What made that victory extra special was the fact that it was achieved in Paris, home for the French.

We have beaten Australia, Scotland, Argentina, Italy and Wales.

The win against France though has to be placed on the highest pedestal.

Defeating the French on their home soil was special.

It spoke highly of the resilience, confidence and commitment of the Flying Fijians.

It’s that confident edge, proclaiming what many Fijian fans hope is the coming-of-age of our Flying Fijians, which may be their motivation this afternoon.

National coach John McKee appears to be quietly optimistic.

Defeating the New Zealand Maori isn’t going to be a walk in the park either.

They will be keen to uphold standards, and protect an image that has been nurtured well over the years.

However, there is optimism Fiji has the potential to turn heads this afternoon.

McKee said the Maori All Blacks were a very good side, with good players coming straight out of Super Rugby.

“They’re really match fit. For us, the challenge will be to make sure that we can match the New Zealand Maori for the full 80 minutes,” he said.

“We want to start our campaign well, because that is important for us, having players who are fit and really ready to go. It’s always difficult in the first assembly or the first game to get the combinations to click straight off.”

Today fans will be keen to see the national side in action.

They will be hoping to see some of the magic we displayed against France during last year’s Europe tour.

Our international image has improved in leaps and bounds.

Our scrums have turned into a rock solid platform to launch attacks from.

Our defensive scrums have attracted attention, and the big names we have right across the field, in the pack and in the backline have catapulted the image of the side to dizzying heights.

It’s this attention and hype that is motivating fans.

It’s attracting their imagination.

Today starts McKee’s countdown in the final leg of preparations for the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

He will no doubt be keen to see how our set pieces hold up against a strong opposition.

He will be keen to see how our attacking form, and our defensive shapes operate under sustained pressure.

He will be keen to test his options at midfield, and probably in the backrow.

Then there is the make-up of the frontrow and secondrow he will be looking to take with him to Japan.

This afternoon will be as much a test of character for Fiji as it will be one of combinations and positions.

The ultimate would have to be the Japan campaign.

For now though, it will be all guns firing this afternoon at the Laucala Bowl.

We wish the two teams well this afternoon.

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