11 Nov 2017

Sport: Fiji, Samoa begin Northern rugby tours

11:37 am on 11 November 2017
Baby Flying Fijians in action against Portugal.

Baby Flying Fijians in action against Portugal. Photo: World Rugby

The Flying Fijians rugby team are looking to extend their recent dominance over Italy to foreign shores when they square off in Catania tomorrow morning.

The Pacific Nations Cup holders pipped the Azzurri 22-19 in Suva earlier this year, with first five Ben Volavola slotting an 80th minute drop-goal to secure a dramatic victory.

Fiji also prevailed when the teams met in Suva three years ago but have only managed one win from five tests on Italian soil, way back in 1999.

Coach John McKee believes they have a real opportunity.

"On their home track they're going to be a tough opposition. We know that they'll come at us through the scrum and also use their lineout more, so we're going to have to be on top of our game in those areas but this game is about the way we play and we'll be really looking to impose our game on Italy."

"I believe that as long as we can match them in the forwards I think in the back division, if we can open the game up and play an expansive game, that we will have the edge over them."

John McKee says the Northern tour, which also includes tests against Ireland and Canada, is a crucial step in the team's progress towards the next Rugby World Cup.

"I think it's really important for us to improve our game and to build each assembly that we have and looking at the long game towards 2019 we need to make the most of every assembly we have to build our game."

"We're at a little bit of a disadvantage because our players are spread all around the world and we don't play as many test matches as some of our opposition."

The Flying Fijians during a training session in Tonga.

The Flying Fijians during a training session in Tonga. Photo: Supplied / Fiji Rugby

The Flying Fijians are ranked ninth in the world after retaining the Pacific Nations Cup title in July and could leapfrog France into eight spot this weekend if they account for Italy and the All Blacks do the business against Les Bleus in Paris.

"we can climb up the rankings and that's a great achievement for us but some of those rankings are a bit funny - that depends on other results as well - so we focus on what we need to do in the games in front of us and (if) other results go our way we can certainly climb the rankings a little bit."

"That's an interesting aside for us but we're focusing on our performance and being the best we can be this weekend."

Meanwhile Samoa will look to end a difficult week for their Union off the field on a positive note when they take on Scotland in Edinburgh.

Donald Brighouse and Josh Tyrell will make their test debut for the Manu in the tight five, with Melani Matavao and AJ Alatimu poised to earn their first caps from the bench.

The Manu have managed just one win in ten tests against Scotland, with their last encounter a three-point defeat in the World Cup group stage two years ago.

FRU Chairman Commander Francis Kean and Flying Fijians coach John McKee.

FRU Chairman Commander Francis Kean and Flying Fijians coach John McKee. Photo: Supplied / Fiji Rugby Union