Wallabies beware: Fiji’s emergence as a genuine power may have begun

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1 Fiji’s rise is starting to look inexorable

After so many false dawns for Pacific Islands rugby, it pays to be cautious. But, after beating England at the weekend, Fiji’s emergence as a genuine power may have begun. They were 8-0 down early at Twickenham and the rain was pouring down, but it did not deter them. Coach Simon Raiwalui has instilled some genuine resilience, and they also overcame a disallowed try and a yellow card on the way to a 30-22 win.

But, whatever happens at the World Cup in the Wallabies’ group, their current rise is underpinned by the Fijian Drua (who provided the No.9 and No.10 against England).

Fiji will also play the All Blacks at least once next year, and they are a shoo-in for Nations Cup participation in 2026. Watch out.

2 More evidence that it’s not the coaching, it’s the system

Look at what has happened to the Wallabies 2019 RWC coaching team. Raiwalui is winning games for Fiji, Michael Cheika has beaten the All Blacks twice with Argentina, and Mick Byrne is setting the Fijian Drua up for sustainable success in Super Rugby.

Vinaya Habosi of Fiji scores the team’s second try.Credit: Getty Images

Before that, Robbie Deans was axed by Rugby Australia and became a serial winner again in Japan’s domestic competition.

Fiji’s win moved the Wallabies to ninth in the world, before the Test against France.

3 Will Rugby Australia choose debt over private equity?

The push for Super Rugby centralisation announced this week looks borne out of financial necessity more than anything, and there was a noticeably cautious approach from Queensland, who have turned their finances around in recent years.

But, no matter who is paying the players, the question of funding remains. My hunch is that Australian rugby may now go down the debt path, rather than private equity.

Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh.Credit: Louie Douvis

The valuation of rugby assets has likely decreased in recent years – CVC’s investment into the English Premiership looks like a complete stinker – and the upshot for Australia is that they would have to sell a massive slice of the farm to get the sort of capital injection that would make that worthwhile.

Is more short-term debt the least-worst option until the Lions revenue starts to come in, followed by the World Cup?

4 Scott Barrett needs a good lawyer

The All Blacks second-rower is heading for a date with the judiciary after picking up two yellow cards against South Africa – the second for whacking Malcolm Marx as he lay on the ground. Barrett is in trouble.

Immediately after the incident, he looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up. He flew off his feet at the ruck, with some force, and appeared to hit Marx on the head. If it is established that the contact was direct to the head, Barrett faces a ban that will cause a crisis in the All Blacks’ preparations. With Brodie Retallick and Shannon Frizell injured, Barrett’s absence would mean that the All Blacks have just two available second-rowers to face France in the World Cup opener.

5 Samoa could face brutal Sanzaar call

Sanzaar is scheduled to decide which two teams join Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina in the new Nations Cup competition scheduled for 2026 onwards. Fiji are almost certain to be one of the teams, and sources with knowledge of the situation have told this masthead that World Rugby, at least, favours Japan as the second side.

Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby have also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan. But where does that leave Samoa, who are now ranked above Japan, beat them in July, and almost defeated Ireland at the weekend?

Coincidentally, Samoa also play Japan at the World Cup. Everyone understands the economic rationale for picking Japan, but if Samoa beat them in France next month and then don’t make the Nations Cup cut, you can expect some cries of “injustice” to come from Apia.

Watch all the action from Rugby World Cup 2023 on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport. Every match ad-free, live and on demand in 4K UHD from September 9.

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