When all things are said and done, Fijian fans will be keen to see some changes in the way we prepare for Portugal in our final pool game at the Rugby World Cup in France.
There were many lessons learnt in the game against Georgia. National coach Simon Raiwalui has his work cut out. He knows he will have to organise our defensive shape and consider how Georgia broke through and scored a try that was ruled off-side.
We were stable against arguably one of the world’s strongest scrums, however, we had issues in our lineouts. We had issues with an enthusiastic Georgia defence that was disruptive and nullified the impact of our centres in the first spell.
So while it was encouraging to see our pack hold their own against Georgia, the fact that we conceded penalties that were turned into points by the opposition will be a worry heading into the Portugal game.
So it is with great trepidation that we look ahead to the big game. We are just one point away from reaching the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup. With Australia having secured a bonus point win over Portugal, the onus is now on us to get a point to edge the Wallabies.
A win, draw or a loss within seven points will be enough. A loss within seven points could also secure a spot in the quarterfinals. But in saying that, our resurgence in the second half against Georgia showed the standards we have attained as a team.
We have a solid scrum that can match any pack in the world. Our front rowers are top notch scrummagers. We have a solid second row and a back row to die for. The challenge now is for Raiwalui to get us to play winning rugby.
Coming off with two strong rolling mauls against Georgia would have had fans rubbing their hands in glee. But it is the fact that we believed in ourselves, and in the face of a 0-9 scoreline at the break, to still came back to defeat Georgia, that will attract attention.
We are a 80-minute team! It is what champion teams do. It is expected of top teams. Again, we reflect on the fact that this is a World Cup, where every team is focused on coming off with their best against the best in the world.
So before we downplay Portugal’s campaign, it is important that we reflect on what coach Raiwalui said about respect for our opposition. That must extend from the training field to the big game day.
No one wants to lose at the RWC. Georgia planned to beat Fiji and almost did. Portugal will surely be thinking the same thing. They would have watched the game against Georgia and would be picking up a number of areas to exploit.
That’s to be expected. This is the stage for top coaches to work their magic. Fiji fans will be keenly focused on how Raiwalui prepares the team to face Portugal. We say go Fiji, go.