JUST OVER A week on from the Samoan Rugby Union’s declaration of bankruptcy, rest assured the tremors are still being felt by their neighbours in the Pacific.
In Dublin today, ahead of his side’s 51,000 sell-out clash with Ireland in the Aviva Stadium, Fiji head coach John McKee had sympathy for Samoa while also touching on how organising European tours on a shoestring budget with players who are spread across the globe is a challenge of creativity.
“We’ve got a great talent pool across the three major unions down there. The logistics of getting these tours together, having proper preparation is always a challenge.
“We have to be creative in getting the best preparation we can, and finance certainly can be at times challenging.
“You can’t do everything you want to do because the money just isn’t there. But, at the same time, you’re learning that you can run good programmes without spending a lot of money.
“Samoa are going through a tough time at the moment, and when your cash flow is tight, November is always tough because it’s one of the biggest challenges of the year.”
The ex-Connacht assistant expressed a level of satisfaction with the money coming his union’s way through sponsors, but the Kiwi called for a change in arrangements for touring Pacific teams, which he feels are out-dated and designed to suit greater television markets which Fiji can’t hope to compete with despite the world-renowned flair and ambition of their rugby team.
“When you look at the regulations of the game, it’s almost as though they were formulated back in the amateur era of the game, and I don’t think they’ve really moved on into the professional era for the Tier 2 nations,” says McKee.
“The big countries, there’s a lot of reciprocal rights, and a lot of money is generated through broadcasting rights, which… we don’t have any broadcasting rights.
“I understand the unions up here have costs as well, and they get a lot of their income out of these gates as well. But I think there needs to be some move there somewhere, where the host pays the visiting team some sort of an appearance fee almost.
The stadium’s sold out here tomorrow, the Pacific teams are always a big draw and the northern unions like playing them because the Pacific Island teams, they know they are a big draw.
“People will always come and watch Fiji because they know they will see exciting rugby.”
Irish supporters going to the Aviva Stadium tomorrow can expect to see the best of that Fijian style as McKee has been able to call on a fresh Nemani Nadolo to launch at Darren Sweetnam as he makes his full debut.
The Montpellier star was allowed to skip the opening November clash against Italy in Sicily last weekend, but McKee expects the giant wing to be energised by the change of pace that comes with his Fiji tracksuit.
“Nemani has been playing a lot of games for Montpellier and I think it was good for him to get a week off last week and get into a different sort of training from what he’s been doing with his club, and that’s really sharpened him up for this week.
“He had a good game against Leinster over at the RDS, so hopefully he can repeat that at the Aviva tomorrow.
“One of the things with working with Fiji is you get a lot of satisfaction working with players. They’ve got a great vision for the game, great natural talent, but they’ve also got a good open mind to try different things.
“With this group, they understand the balance between structure and playing a freestyle game. They know we need to have structure to build pressure or opportunities, but certainly there’s no other team in the world that could unleash the unusual play, the-off-the-cuff play.
“So you don’t want to coach that out of them, you want to keep that, but at the same time the players need to understand we do need a structure to put ourselves in better positions to score.”
Even with big guns like Nadolo and Leone Nakarawa in tow, and with a much-changed Ireland on the other side, the odds are against Fiji making history with a first win over Ireland to upset the full house on Lansdowne Road. However, McKee is hoping to make the inexperienced contingent in green shirts sweat a little.
“If we can get in and put some pressure on Ireland tomorrow, maybe some of that lack of experience may put the Irish team under pressure. That won’t happen unless we play really well. We have to be on top of our game, do the things we want to do well and exert pressure on Ireland.
“Those players, tomorrow’s their chance to stake a claim to play next week or in the Six Nations, so I don’t doubt they’ll be making the most of their opportunity.
“We’re coming here tomorrow confident that if we can bring our best game, do the things we need to and do well that we can be right in the contest.”
Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud