MELBOURNE, Australia, Jun 11 – Fiji are looking forward to bolstering their playing strength ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers with two key lead-up Tests against Six Nations opposition, coach John McKee said.
The Fijians showed glimpses of their potential in going down 37-14 to Australia in Melbourne on Saturday, but McKee said he was looking at the bigger picture.
Fiji will host Italy and Scotland in Suva over the next two weeks before they take on Samoa and Tonga for a place in the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The winner of the Oceania qualifying will earn a place in the same pool as the Wallabies in the World Cup and McKee said topping that tournament was Fiji’s main objective.
“Every week we play, we go out to win Test matches, that’s what we’re there for but the eye is on the big goal at the end and we’ve got to make sure we’re developing our game,” McKee told reporters after Saturday’s Test.
“Next week we’ll have a few players back so we’ll have a stronger squad to choose from.”
Winger Patrick Osborne will join the squad after his club Otago Highlanders take on the British and Irish Lions this week, while Toulon back Josua Tuisova will return home after playing in the Top 14 final in France.
While the Wallabies were too good for his side, McKee said there was cause for optimism in the coming weeks.
McKee said 10th-ranked Fiji would fancy their chances against 15th-ranked Italy, having beaten them in all three of their previous Tests in Fiji.
“When you look at the rankings and you look at the recent performances, you would think that Italy could be a weaker opposition, but I don’t like to say that,” he said.
“We’ve really got to concentrate on playing our game. Our challenge this week will be working on a few areas of our game that we didn’t execute so well against the Wallabies and make sure we rectify that for next week.”
He added that Italy’s style of play meant Fiji would have the opportunities in the wider channels if the players could get the ball there quickly.
“I’d also expect Italy to probably kick the ball to us more than Australia does, which will create counter-attack opportunities, which can be a point of difference,” McKee said.
“We look forward to this next game with some confidence.”
Fiji fly-half Ben Volavola said the Melbourne Test was a learning experience for a new generation of players in a team that included three debutants.
“We’ve got young guys coming through and it was great exposure for them and for the rest of the squad,” the Melbourne Rebels number 10 said.