Learn from Lelos; Georgia, a rugby nation on the rise
Fijian rugby fans returned home disappointed from the ANZ Stadium in Suva last Friday. And they deserved to be upset after seeing their Vodafone Flying Fijians being outplayed by Georgia 3-14 in the one-off test.
It was definitely not the ideal way to spend the National Sports Day public holiday. It was not what they expected from the Sunia Kotocaptained team after they won the 2016 Pacific Nations Cup for the fourth year in-a-row at the same venue a week earlier. Vodafone Flying Fijians coach John McKee said: “We won the Pacific Nations Cup; it’s a good achievement as it’s a qualifier for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“It’s easier for the boys to get motivated against the Pacific teams but we need to be mentally tuned when we play test rugby.” The Lelos delivered a rugby lesson that we should learn from moving forward. Perhaps we should have taken notice of the 2015 RWC. Out of the European nations, Georgia, Romania and Uruguay, the Lelos was the best performer scoring two wins beating Tonga 17-10, Nambia 17-16 and scoring two tries in the 43-10 loss to the All Blacks.
After the win over Fiji, the Georgians could relegate Fiji from the top 10 in the World Rugby rankings after its updated tomorrow.
This could push the bid for the Lelos to participate in the Six Nations replacing either Italy or Scotland or increasing the competition to Seven Nations. Their sole reward so far for beating Tonga and Namibia and making the All Blacks look mortals in Cardiff last year has been an autumn test date against Scotland at Murrayfield later this year.
It will be interesting what the Six Nations powerbrokers will have to say if Mamuka Gorgodza and his band of bruisers win that one.
This is not the first time the Flying Fijians have been humiliated by European rugby nations. The former president of the Fiji Rugby Union, the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, referred to Romania as a gymnastic rather than a rugby country 25 years ago. This was after the Fijians lost 17-15 to Romania in the pool match at the 1991 RWC. Times have changed and we need to respect our opponents rather than overrating ourselves all the time. The Vodafone Flying Fijians will have that chance again in November when we face Barbarians, England and Japan during the Europe tour in November. We simply need to do a better job.