Fiji Autumn Internationals 2021

Fiji Autumn Internationals
With a Fijian Super Rugby franchise introduced for 2022, the future has arguably never looked brighter for the Flying Fijians. Two years out from the Rugby World Cup, Fiji will want to prove themselves as contenders during these upcoming Autumn Internationals.

The Olympic Influence

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As is sadly always the case for rugby’s grand entertainers, the Fijians have faced significant disruption to their preparations. Head Coach Vern Cotter is unable to travel with the team. As a result, Fiji 7s coach Gareth Baber fills in as the caretaker head coach. Baber will not be the only influx from the 7s set-up, with players like Jiuta Wainiqolo and Masivesi Dakuwaqa transferring to the 15s team. This could help create a winning culture, after the Olympic gold medal the 7s team achieved earlier this year. However, 15s is certainly a game with far more tactical nuances, so it will be fascinating to see their impact throughout these Autumn tests.

Fiji Autumn Internationals: Key Players

One of the reasons Fiji is every neutral’s favourite team is the dazzling superstars on show. This squad is no different with the likes of Leone Nakarawa, Josua Tuisova, and Viliame Mata providing obvious star power. Surprisingly for a Fiji squad, it is actually a prop that warrants special attention in the form of Peni Ravai. The Clermont player is arguably one of the premier players in his position, with his barn-storming runs making him a key player for the French side. Alongside hooker Sam Matavesi, Ravai could help provide a secure set-piece to unleash their talent out-wide. Meanwhile, scrum-half Frank Lomani has been electric for Northampton Saints, and Albert Tuisue was one of the fundamental players in London Irish’s shock win over Exeter Chiefs.

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Fiji’s Autumn Internationals:
06/11- vs Spain (Madrid, 3pm)
14/11- vs Wales (Cardiff, 3.15pm)
20/11- vs Georgia (Aranjuez, 3pm)
A point of interest may be the progress of another 7s star Vilimoni Botitu, who can provide cover at fly-half. Ben Volavola is the only specialist 10 in the Fiji squad, but will be 32 years old at the Rugby World Cup. The Fijians certainly need more options, with some at the Fiji Rugby Union concerned about the lack of playmakers coming through. Botitu has exceptional pace and offloading skills, but would certainly need time to develop as an international fly-half. Perhaps Baber and Cotter may look to start Botitu against Spain or Georgia.

What can Fiji fans hope for this Autumn?

Fiji would have learned plenty from their two Tests against New Zealand in July. At the 60th minute of the first Test, Fiji were truly in the fight. They were only 8 points behind, with one All Blacks player in the sin-bin. The final score of 57-23 doesn’t reflect how competitive the game was. The 2nd test, however, was a far more dominant performance from New Zealand, with Fiji only scoring one try in a 60-13 defeat. It epitomizes how Fiji have the talent and ability to shock tier-one nations, but will hope to be more competitive consistently.
Baber will hope to sweep aside tier two nations Georgia and Spain this Autumn, but the real litmus test will be against the Welsh in Cardiff. Fiji haven’t toppled a tier-one nation since 2018, so a win would be incredible. However, the odds are against Fiji slaying the 6 Nations champions on their home turf. Therefore, a realistic target would be two wins, and a competitive outing in Cardiff.

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