State of the Nation: Fiji

Date published: December 1 2016

With the November Tests now done and dusted for most teams, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next, Fiji.

November certainly finished for the Flying Fijians better than it started, when after limiting training time with their full squad John McKee's side suffered a tough loss in the rain in Belfast against the Barbarians.

Execution in defence in those first games of the month will always be a problem for Fiji as long as they continue to have minimal training time together beforehand, even though according to McKee the clubs in France are improving when it comes to releasing players ahead of time.

A week later against England, Fiji were beaten before they could even get into the game – five tries down after 33 minutes. Scoring three tries at Twickenham was certainly a positive. Conceding 58 points was not.

The primary issue seems to be at fly-half. Ben Volavola has not developed as well as everyone hoped when he flashed signs of promise during last year's Rugby World Cup, and now finds himself stuck behind Richie Mo'unga at the Crusaders and arguably behind Josh Matavesi at Test level.

Matavesi is not even best suited to playing at fly-half, but offered more authority in the 10 shirt against England. At a time when D'Angelo Leuila is bursting through onto the scene for Samoa, now Fiji need someone similar.

McKee spoke after that game at Twickenham about needing to begin the building process for the 2019 RWC and the signs were there against Japan that Fiji are more than still capable of splitting matches wide open with their attacking game, Metuisela Talebula's try being one for the catalogue.

Finding a competitive edge at the set-piece remains an obvious need but the development of young props back in Fiji is underway, as McKee told Planet Rugby last month.

“In Fiji we have not traditionally had a culture of front row play and the great thing for me from the World Cup was suddenly there was a whole bunch of kids in Fiji who are the right shape to play front row have now got some role models," he said at the time.

“Before, the role models were always the Sevens players or the back rowers who could run hard, so the front rowers got left out of it a bit. We will see – it is a challenge for us, but towards 2019 and beyond we will see a lot of change there.”

Music to our ears.

Read the rest of our State of the Nation pieces right here