Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

11th November 2013 06:45

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SKY_MOBILE Peter Fatialofa - Samoa - Feb 2001

Gone but not forgotten: Peter Fatialofa

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with takeaways from the Test weekend and a fond farewell...

What we learned over a patchy weekend of Test action:

1) The gap between north and south continues to exist. Wales and France both blew huge chances to take treasured scalps this weekend. But 'blow' is perhaps a little cruel... we should say: New Zealand and South Africa both reminded us that when it comes to the tightest situations the southern teams still have the edge. The difference in Paris? The incredible line and pass from Charles Piutau. In Cardiff? Simple finishing. Warren Gatland was spot on when he said: "It's not the fitness or physicality, it's that tempo and speed of thought and it sometimes takes a bit of time to get used to it." Maybe a bit of time... but how many years has it been now? SH teams just know how to win games and score at the crucial moment. Until Europe manages to create a regular league of Heineken Cup intensity, it's going to take forever.

2) Australia really aren't that bad. Slow start aside they were clearly in another class to Italy, matching up to the Italian pack and showing a cutting edge outside that has been missing from their game for yonks. Italy made their mistakes, but the lop-sided nature of the result was no coincidence. This was a vastly improved Australia performance of speed, precision and excitement, one which will doubtless have the fans hoping that a corner has been turned.

3) England are winning when not playing well. It's supposed to be one of the hallmarks of a good team to be able to do that, so the benefit of the doubt must surely be with this England team, who are, if nothing else, united, playing for each other, and all sorts of hard to break down. Next weekend will be the real benchmark as to how much they need to improve to be world class, but while this belligerent nobody will want to play them.

4) France are not that bad either. Forget the last-placed finish in the Six Nations, France were good value for their near-miss on Saturday night. Tactically spot on, they have a few structural flaws to iron out and they need to re-learn the art of broken play rugby, so long the French staple. But there is under Philippe Saint Andre, as there was under Bernard Laporte for a time, a collective buy-in to a strict gameplan which was one miracle pass short of gaining a draw against the best in the world. Nobody's going to want to play France soon either.

5) Wales' squad depth is of the shallowness normally associated with Big Brother contestants. Lose three or four key players and the Welsh look flat and uninspiring. Good as a unit they are, but take away a few big names and there's few coming up behind to bolster the troops. How much do you think the Welsh would give for a Shane Williams type of player right now too?

6) New Zealand may be the best in the world, but they do get away with an awful lot of things too. They are so good to watch that you give them the benefit of the doubt, but there were definitely times on Saturday when the white shirts just took aeons to get away from the tackle situation or to get onto their side of the ball, or where their scrum was under pressure and did not get penalised as it should have. It is going to be very interesting to see how they react to England's pressure game on Saturday, and how the referee then reacts to their reaction. Against France they got away with it, will they be that lucky again?


Away from the weekend's action, rugby, and particularly Samoan and New Zealand rugby this week bade a fond farewell to a servant of good and long standing.

Long-time Auckland prop and Samoan stalwart Peter Fatialofa passed away suddenly this week at the age of 54 from a heart attack. He leaves a large family.

Fatialofa was one of the Samoan players who helped put the island nation team on the map after their stunning 1991 World Cup win over Wales. He played for Samoa until 1996, the same year he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to rugby, and had been coaching Samoa's women's rugby team.

The jokes about piano shifters up front obviously struck a chord as well, for he was the owner of a successful business named Peter Fats, Piano and Furniture Removal, which still runs today, while he was a fine tourism ambassador for Samoa through the Fats Tours company.

All Black great Bryan Williams summed up the comments of many whe he said a "huge wave of emotion" came over him following the news of Fatialofa's death, to the New Zealand Herald.

"There are so many memories that came flooding back. Peter Fats is one of the icons of our sport.

"It's not just about Samoan rugby or Ponsonby or Auckland rugby. He transcended all boundaries. He was universally popular throughout the rugby world."

A sad loss for New Zealand and Samoa and rugby in general. Rest in peace, Fats.

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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