JWC: U20's Launch huge weekend of Samoa v Fiji Rugby rivalry
(IRB.com) Samoa and Fiji are counting down the days until they come face to face at the University of Western Cape Stadium in the second round of matches at the IRB Junior World Championship 2012 in South Africa.
Two proud Pacific Island nations, passionate about their rugby whether it be Sevens, Under 20s or senior level, and separated in terms of South African cities by the distance between Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Both lost their opening Pool A matches on Monday, but are equally determined to kick-start their Junior World Championship campaigns with victory on Friday.
Samoa, back in the Junior World Championship after winning the sister tournament, the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Georgia last year, were the only team not to score on day one, losing 63-0 to four-time champions New Zealand.
Fiji had led Wales 12-3 at half time in the first Pool A match, but conceded six second half tries to ultimately lose 44-18, placing even more importance on the match between the two Pacific Island nations.
“Our second game will be against Fiji and that’s our sole focus for Friday,” insisted Samoa captain Ropeti Lafo. “We’re working hard for the match. We need to improve on our defence firstly, and then secondly our set pieces. Our scrum and lineout will be vital.
“The Fijian team is very much like the Samoan team and we both work hard.”
Andy Ripley, the Samoan team manager in South Africa, admitted that there is always rivalry on the rugby field between the two nations.
“You’ll find the rivalry between the two teams whatever the age group,” explained Ripley. “This rivalry goes back many years and we’re looking forward to Friday’s game.”
The rivalry is even stronger when the senior national teams come face to face, as they will do on Sunday in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup in Japan. Although this time, both will go into the match having won their opening encounters.
“The matches against Fiji are very important for the Samoan people and these are the games that we look forward to. The same goes for Fiji. They will be organised and I believe we are well prepared for this match.”
Ripley feels Samoa’s best chance of victory will be to keep the ball away from Fiji's forwards and use their striking weapons in the backline.
“Our strength is along the backline but we are looking to play a tight game against Fiji,” said Ripley, who played club rugby for the most part of his career in New Zealand.
Fiji seek improvements
“We’ll be looking to match them at the breakdowns and then try to dominate at the set pieces. We’re also looking to play the Fijian game (style).”
Ripley felt sure that Samoans back home would be disappointed with the loss against New Zealand, but he felt his side would have learnt a great deal from the encounter.
Fiji, meanwhile, will be looking to improve their own performance by executing their game plans better.
“We need to improve at the set piece and also execute better when we have the ball,” insisted captain Matayavusa Lea. “We need to lift our standard of playing.
“We didn’t expect to lose our first game but straight afterwards we regrouped and made a commitment to bounce back in the second match.
“I know that Samoa can be as physical as us and they are capable of playing open rugby. I have not as yet watched their first game on video but I know they have big forwards.
“We’ll also look at New Zealand’s match and see if we can detect any weakness in the Samoan game.”
Fiji’s population is almost four times that of Samoa and geography shows Fiji is also seven times bigger. But for now size won't count, the only thing that matters is winning. Just ask any Fijian or Samoan.