Fiji’s performance in the Rugby World Cup and in the warm up games have led to calls for Fiji and Japan to be incorporated into a tier one competition.
In the case of Japan, it could be argued their performances in the pool stages have warranted a consideration of being included in the Rugby Championship.
Fiji Rugby Championship entrance
Kicking on from their win over South Africa in 2015, they have shown composure and an ability to play tier one-level rugby with an impressive and dominant win over Ireland.
Japan can rightly demand SANZAAR take a look at the Rugby Championship and consider them as possible future inclusions.
The case for Fiji
Following Fiji’s final game of the pool stages, where they gave Wales the scare of their lives, there were calls from some for this consideration to also be extended to them.
Result aside, I think everyone agrees that @fijirugby have outgrown the Pacific Nations Cup.
Must be included into Rugby Championship or even the 6 Nations
Fiji at RWC2023 after consistent Tier 1 comp = unstoppable 🇫🇯🇫🇯🇫🇯
— Daniel Leo (@danleo82) October 9, 2019
There’s no doubt Fiji play some beautiful rugby and look as if they were born to play rugby, with centre or wing Semi Radradra rightfully being touted as a possible World Player of the Year nominee.
Against Australia, the islanders showed their searing pace and imperial offloading ability, but were finally defeated in the tight.
In their meeting with Wales, they showed a more rounded game, scoring a try from a rolling maul and gaining parity in the scrum for much of the contest.
But with only one win out of four, It’s difficult to see how their results back up the calls by Daniel Leo and many others.
The wealth gap
Of course, much of this disparity is down to the huge wealth gap between the rugby unions of tier 1 and tier 2 nations.
The reported England pot for players’ fees comes to a staggering £7 million, whereas many island nations’ wage pots are a fraction of that.
It’s remarkable in itself that Fiji have pushed Wales and Australia so closely, given the huge gap in available resources. For that they should be commended.
The Nations Championship mooted by World Rugby was designed to bridge this gap and make international rugby more inclusive.
This would have entailed a 12-team league which included Fiji and Japan and featured promotion and relegation, something tier 1 nations were averse to.
This would have brought Fiji and Japan into the tier one fold, but eventually the idea was scrapped.
Even so, the consideration of this idea made it clear that the gap is closing between tier one and tier two nations, which made this Rugby World Cup the most open ever.
Japan’s wins and Fiji’s performances against top-quality opposition in Wales and Australia have made everyone sit up and take notice.
But their game versus Uruguay was one that needed to be won.
A missed opportunity
Every rugby fan in the world will have felt conflicted at the result, as Uruguay’s overcoming of the odds was a true underdog story.
On the other hand, the loss effectively brought an end to the hope that Fiji could possibly do something special at this World Cup.
This was a chance that needed to be taken, with Fiji able to show what they could do to the entire rugby world.
This World Cup was seen by some as an audition for Japan, Fiji and their Group D opponents Georgia, to see if they have what it takes to make the step up.
With only one of those teams recording more than the solitary win, it looks as if Fiji and Georgia will have to bide their time to be included at the top table.
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