Editorial comment -Preparing our Flying Fijians
It is good to know that Flying Fijians coach John McKee has announced an experienced coaching group to steer us through the Pacific Test Series, Pacific Nations Cup and the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.
McKee has roped in the services of 2015 Flying Fijians assistant coach Tabai Matson with Neil Barnes and Alan Muir for work on field, with Damian Marsh as head of athletic performance, plus John Pryor as head of strength and conditioning.
McKee referred to the setup as “a highly experienced and capable coaching group with extensive professional credentials”.
The group, he said, had the knowledge and alignment to take the Flying Fijians forward and “to help ensure this will be the best prepared Fijian team to travel to a Rugby World Cup”.
Matson is currently a Super Rugby assistant coach with the Chiefs and was heavily involved with the national team in the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England while “Grumpy” Muir is no stranger to the Fijian players and is regularly in Fiji working with the forwards on their scrummaging.
He has been part of the amazing transformation of Fiji’s fortunes in the set pieces.
McKee said “the technical rugby staff have RWC experience including Barnes who was part of the Canadian team at the RWC in 2011 and 2015 while Pryor was with the Eddie Jones-coached Japan in the last World Cup”.
McKee is quite confident we have the makings of a great setup, on the technical aspects of our preparations and on the likely squad we would be taking across to Japan.
“I am confident that this coaching group can plan and deliver a total rugby program to take the Flying Fijians to new levels,” he said.
Interestingly he has brought in Sunia Koto as the team logistic and cultural leader.
This is expected to play a key part in linking the tactical, technical and social aspects of our preparations.
But when all things are said and done, it is difficult to shrug aside the development made on our scrums.
At the World Cup in 2015, our scrum was rock solid against the Australian Wallabies, Wales and England.
It was definitely an achievement no other Fijian side had made against tier one nations in a long while. It’s a factor of our game that has visibly improved in leaps and bounds.
Not many fans will see the massive improvement in terms of our attacking and defensive shapes either.
Or how national coach McKee obviously has to be one up on opposition teams, manipulating their defensive options to suit our style.
That requires painstaking observation of trends of the opposition attack and defence formations, and individual players.
It means putting together a game plan for the Flying Fijians that embrace these formations, and subsequently linking this back to the type of player McKee would select for the RWC.
It may have a bearing on the type of player McKee may want at five eighth for instance, or at centre or fullback, or in our back row.
Against the Wallabies in 2015, we succumbed 13-28, but ended the match with 53 per cent of possession. In fact things look quite encouraging now from the outset.
The challenge though is how well we can prepare for the RWC, how much we want victory, and how focused we can be heading into the event.
Go Fiji, go.