The Pacific Rugby Cup – the perfect gauge
By Vilikesa Rinavuaka, Fiji Rugby Union
This year the Fiji Warriors are bidding to defend the IRB’s Pacific Rugby Cup for the fourth year in succession against fierce regional rivals Samoa and Tonga respectively.
After the frustrations of the 2011 Rugby World Cup where the Flying Fijians disappointed the entire global rugby community with a performance almost bereft of flair and imagination – two words usually synonymous with arguably the world’s most exciting rugby brand – the PRC will form the perfect foundation from which Fijian rugby can rebuild and reclaim its dented image.
Off the rugby field changes have been made with the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) now under the stewardship of new chief executive officer Manasa Baravilala. There is also a new Flying Fijians head coach in former national number eight Inoke Male, and the FRU is banking on these important off field changes to give Fijian rugby new and added impetus on it.
“We are determined to reclaim our status as a top ten rugby nation and do it with our own brand and style of rugby which, as everyone knows, on the day can undo the best laid plans of any rugby defense in stunning fashion,” Baravilala said.
“Over the next couple of weeks Male will be coaching the Warriors in Australia and New Zealand where our very best local players will pit their skills against some of the best up and coming players those two countries have to offer.”
With his eye on a busy international schedule, which includes possibly nine Test matches and 11 international games in total, Baravilala is keen to see how Fiji’s young locals go in the PRC.
“The Pacific Rugby Cup is the perfect gauge for us to measure ourselves for the upcoming international season,” Baravilala said.
“How we perform against these development sides from the Super 15 franchises in Australia and New Zealand will give us a good indication of where we’re at and what needs to be worked upon as we progress into the year.”
YOUTH, EXPERIENCE AND A BIT OF MIRTH
And this year the Warriors head into the PRC with a young and exciting side. While only two players from the Flying Fijians Rugby World Cup 2011 campaign – props Setefano Somoca and Waisea Daveta – are in attendance, the side does boast in its ranks Digicel Fiji 7s excitement machine Metuisela Talebula.
The gifted flyhalf has the uncanny ability to split open a defense with nothing more than sheer guile and who, despite his relatively slight frame, is as solid as the proverbial Rock of Gibraltar in defense. At 20 years of age Talebula is also the youngest player in the squad.
At the other end of the scale, and making a return to international rugby, is former Digicel Fiji 7s team captain and the oldest member of the Warriors squad – Mosese Volavola. Volavola, 32, is enjoying a purple patch late in his career and despite his age the loose forward remains as mobile and aggressive as ever around the paddock.
While all members of the Warriors will no doubt add their own unique abilities to this year’s PRC campaign there is one player who in his own inimitable way will provide the Warriors with great mirth and hopefully a number of tries en route. Winger Adriu Delai with his incessant chatter, tall tales and general humorous demeanour will no doubt ensure the Warriors are well entertained both on and off the paddock.
So the Warriors head into the defense of their PRC title with youth, experience and a little mirth – a true Pacific blend that the FRU is hoping will be hard to beat.