THE FIJIANS are here acclimatising themselves in readiness for next year's Rugby World Cup. It is doubtful they will encounter conditions when they play their group matches in France such as yesterday's at Grange Road. It was a chill, dank day that grew foggier by the minute. That they ran out such convincing winners over a patchy Cambridge University side did them credit.
Their coach, Brad Johnstone, the burly former All Black prop, explained: "The average temperatures over there are 34 degrees Celsius - they pull on their coats when it drops to 28 degrees."
Shivering or not the Fijians were soon burning their way over the Cambridge line. They passed the half-century mark in the opening game of their eight-match tour against Penzance and Newlyn. Last week they stuck 48 on Oxford. No doubt it will have pleased the Light Blues to have conceded only one more point and to have scored one try more than the Dark Blues.
The tour was to have finished with a match against a World XV in aid of Will Carling's testimonial; that little money-spinner has been replaced by a game against Leicester.
While Johnstone admitted he would have liked an international thrown in somewhere the Fiji manager, Meli Kurisaru, was happy to have a less demanding tour. They arrived here without half a dozen first choices who are all contracted to various clubs around the world. Waisale Serevi, for example, is currently in France.
"It is an opportunity to bring in six newcomers," Kurisaru explained. "We want them to get acclimatised to night games, the conditions and so on. But in the future perhaps we would like to attempt a Grand Slam tour like the South Africans."
After failing to reach the finals of the last World Cup they decided to do something about it. They appointed Johnstone, who toured with the 1978 and 1979 All Blacks, to take charge of the national team and development of the game.
The rewards are now being reaped four years on with qualification for next year's final stages. But it has not been easy for him. "It was a great war with the Sevens people to procure the players," he explained. "Until last year they had precedence when it came to selection and Sevens players were barred from playing Test rugby at 15s."
With World Cup qualification completed all that has changed and next year Johnstone will have first pick.
Ken Iwabuchi, the Japan international stand-off playing out of position at full-back, did himself no favours (despite scoring a try) and appeared to be something of a liability whenever the Fijians thundered at him. In the case of Joeli Veitayaki he could be forgiven. The tight-head prop frequently used his near-21st bulk to bash his way through.
At one point the students managed to hold him up over the line - where they hid the JCB no one knows - but in the end his weight prevailed as he scored one of his side's six tries.
Centre Mark Denney, scrum-half Greg Peacocke and No 8 Henry Whitford shone for the Light Blues, and the front five were no pushover, but they were no match for the Fijians.
The tourists' backs were bursting with power and pace - Waisake Tuisese looked particularly tasty - and both wings proved their class with a brace of tries each and they have a solid kicker in Nicky Little at stand-off. The meeting with Leicester on 3 December should be worth watching.
Cambridge University: Tries Bidwell, Buoy; Penalty Moran. Fiji: Tries Tikomaimakogai 2, Lasagavibau 2, E Tuisese, Veitayaki; Conversions N Little 5; Penalties N Little 3.
Cambridge University: K Iwabuchi; A Bidwell, B Rudge, M Denney, N Miller; P Moran, G Peacocke; M Foulds (capt), S Rodgers, C Hart, H Innes, A Innes, O Slack, H Whitford, M Haslett. Replacements: N Buoy for Iwabuchi, 45; T Mouton for Haslett, 57.
FIJI: W Tuisese; I Tikomaimakogai, V Satala, E Tuisese, F Lasagavibau; N Little, J Rauluni; D Rouse, G Smith (capt), J Veitayaki, E Katalau, A Naevo, T Butukanavula, K Sewabu, S Tawake. Replacements: M Taga for Rouse, 46; I Tawake for Naevo, 60; I Rasila for Smith, 63; A Naituyaga for S Tawake, 79.
Referee: J Yuille (Scotland).Reuse content