Taking on the Azzurri

Fred Wesley | Saturday, June 17, 2017
THE stage is set for what is building up to be an exciting rugby clash this afternoon at the National Stadium in Suva.
Fred Wesley. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU
Fred Wesley. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

Records will be placed on the wings when the Flying Fijians take on the might of the Italian Azzurri.

Mother Nature has actually been kind to us this week and fans will be keeping their fingers crossed that fine weather continues today.

Our effort against the Australian Wallabies last weekend has raised interest, capturing the imagination of fans.

On paper though, the Flying Fijians head in on a better platform in our recent international outings.

We bombed out to the Wallabies 14-37 in Australia in a match that actually raised our profile upfront.

There is attention though on Italy's form against Eddie Jones' England in February this year.

In that game they opted not compete at the breakdown, which effectively allowed them to get into the English line without going offside.

They nullified the ruck and subsequently the offside was taken out as well.

It effectively led to Jones' suggesting it wasn't rugby.

England eventually won the game, despite the early frustration, 36-15.

But Italy led 10-5 at halftime.

Interest though will be on the set pieces, especially now that national coach John McKee has picked a number of local players in his side this afternoon.

Standards have been set by the forward pack. Fans will be keen to see this maintained against an Italian side that is expected to be tough upfront.

McKee reckons we have a good mix to take on the Azzurri.

Part of the emphasis this week has been on unstructured play.

"We are trying to get our players to think outside our set plays so when the ball is in general play we can react and defend accordingly," he said.

Lessons have been learnt from the Wallabies game and McKee is hopeful we can be efficient against Italy.

What is refreshing though is the fact that we have international rugby at home.

That should be the catalyst for fans to converge on the National Stadium.

Tests are different though. This is where players carry the hopes and aspirations of their people.

This is where only the best get to perform.

They are the pick of the crop so to speak.

Whichever side you will be cheering on this afternoon, we hope the action on the field will serve to motivate, encourage and excite you.

For the Flying Fijians, today is about lifting the bar. It is about testing our standards, and seeing where we stand. It is also about self-belief and nurturing passion for the game.

May the best team win!

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