28 Nov 2016

Pacific coaches says test rugby is becoming more competitive

12:14 pm on 28 November 2016

Pacific coaches believe the gap between the haves and have-nots of international rugby is closing.

The November test window was brought to life when Ireland defeated the All Blacks in Chicago while Italy stunned South Africa in Florence.

Fiji and Samoa were both on the end of heavy defeats by England and France respectively but Tonga pipped Italy 19-17 to record just their fifth victory over a top tier nation.

The Tonga rugby team celebrates their win over Italy

The Tonga rugby team celebrates their win over Italy Photo: Photosport

Head coach Toutai Kefu said there's been a lot of close games and the gap is getting smaller.

"It gives us tier two nations glimmer: confidence that we're now starting to break through that competitive barrier and be really competitive with those tier one nations," he said.

"Even between the tier one and tier two, I mean the gap is closing between tier two and tier three now - Romania are recording some really good successes.

"Those tier three teams are getting much better prepared and World Rugby are obviously helping them, as well as they are us."

Fiji rugby coach John McKee.

Fiji rugby coach John McKee. Photo: AFP

The Flying Fijians ended their Northern tour on a winning note, defeating Japan 38-25 in Vannes, and coach John McKee said more competition is great for rugby.

"We need to see more teams upsetting other teams, it makes the game more interesting," he said.

"I think there's a lot of work going in, particularly at the level (below the top). I keep in touch with a lot of tier two coaches and I know that the programs in a lot of countries is improving, the depth of talented players is improving.

"Between now and 2019 we've already seen the gap close but we'll see more tier twos challenging tier ones and winning games."