Pacific preparations on track for 2011
The recent IRB Pacific Nations Cup provided the perfect platform for Samoa, Fiji and Tonga to begin building for RWC 2011...
Samoa won the PNC title for the first time after recovering from a shock 23-11 loss to Japan (only the second time ever and the first time in Apia) to defeat Fiji 31-9 in the final. The win capped off a remarkable two months for Samoa after the National Sevens team were crowned 2009/10 IRB Sevens World Series Champions.
Saoma's National Training Centre continues to produce quality international players with 11 athletes from the PNC squad and all bar one player in their Sevens team being current or past scholarship recipients. Construction of a permanent High Performance facility, including a gym, administration block and accommodation will commence shortly and is due to be completed prior to RWC 2011.
After victories over Japan and an amazing 41-38 comeback win over Tonga, Fiji were unable to secure the bonus point needed to claim their first PNC title. However, with 21 locally-based players in their PNC squad, the Flying Fijians have plenty more overseas-based players to return for the November Tour ahead of the all-important 2011 PNC and of course RWC 2011.
In May, Fiji hosted the first all-Fijian final of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup - a tournament designed to provide the best local players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga with high level international competition. The Fiji Warriors and Fiji Barbarians placed 1st and 2nd at the PRC. This was the best performance by Fijian teams in the history of the tournament and the Warriors defeated the Barbarians 26-17 in the final in Suva.
The Fijians also played Australia in a one-off Test in Canberra in June which they lost 49- 3. The team was predominantly made up of locally-based players, many of whom will be vying for a spot in Fiji's RWC 2011 squad and benefited enormously from the experience.
The restructure of Fiji's High Performance Programme has continued with the establishment of two National Centres of Excellence (in Suva and Nadi) to complement the five satellite Licensed Training Centres already in operation. The Centres will be staffed full-time with skills coaches, sports science & sports medicine staff and administrative personnel. Twenty three of Fiji's squad of 30 players in the PNC squad are current or former LTC scholarship players.
After a difficult administrative period Tonga have registered some competitive performances on the pitch and undertaken an extensive restructure of their High Performance Programme. Over the past two months the Union has recruited a full time Academy Coach and a Rugby Services Manager to bolster their High Performance operations.
Whilst the Ikale Tahi did not win a game in the PNC, all losses were by three points or less. The Tongans had the best attacking record and registered four bonus points - three more than any other team in the competition. Like Fiji, the National Coach, former New Zealand player, Isitolo Maka, blooded a large core of locally-based players in the PNC. The next step in their development will be competing at the Americas Rugby Championship in October.
Also of note is the redevelopment of the Licenced Training Centre in Tonga. Twenty senior players recieved scholarships and will be inducted in September, along with an additional 20 age grade players.