The Flying Fijians historic victory over France should become the norm rather than the exception, their coach John McKee says.
Fiji beat the hosts 21-14 in Paris on Sunday, keeping Les Bleus scoreless in the second half to clinch their first win in ten tests against the three time Rugby World Cup finalists.
McKee said preparation throughout the week was excellent and he could sense the players were ready to deliver a big performance.
“We knew that the French team were under a lot of pressure to get results at home and although they won last week they had lost their previous five games so the pressure was really on the French team and for us it was everything to win,” he said.
“To do so, we had to put them under massive pressure to get our noses in front but we knew during times in the game they’d come back at us and we would have to defend very well.”
Fiji opened the scoring through former rugby league star Semi Radradra, who shrugged off five defenders to muscle over for stunning solo try in the 19th minute before the hosts responded with a try from a driving maul five minutes later.
Josua Tuisova restored Fiji’s lead on the half hour mark with some slick finishing by the right touchline before France snatched the lead in first half stoppage time with a second try to Guilhem Guirado.
But that would be the last scoring act by the hosts as three Ben Volavola penalty goals secured the famous victory.
McKee was full of priase for the grit and determination shown as Fiji’s players spent large periods of the final quarter of the match pegged back on their own goal-line defending wave after wave of French attack.
“I think ‘dig deep’ is a very good expression and that’s what the boys did,” he said.
“We felt that to beat France we’d have to be able to front from the word go and be able to put a lot of pressure on the French team, both in terms of field position and on the scoreboard, and that’s what we did.”
The performance in Paris was a big confidence boost and would provide the players with the perfect motivation heading into 2019, McKee said.
“We know we’ve got very talented athletes but the thing is on the mental side of things, to have a real self belief of what we can achieve. The players took huge steps in that direction this week,” he said.
“With around 300 days until we play in Japan it’s a great motivator for the team because a lot of the work we have to do is in-between assemblies to make sure that when we do assemble we’re ready to hit the ground running.
“It’s a great motivator for the players to do those little extra bits between now and July when we reassemble so we can make the most of that build-up period we have towards Rugby World Cup 2019.”
After securing arguably the biggest win in Flying Fijians history, McKee said his team was capable of competing with anyone in the world.
“We want to get away from this tier one versus tier two mantle,” he said.
“We want to get to the point where Fiji can take on anyone and it’s not so much considered tier one / tier two. You’re playing whoever and we can get a result against any opposition anywhere, that’s what we’re working towards.
“If we want to do well in the World Cup we can’t focus too much on tier one / tier two. You’ve got to focus on the results we need to get to progress through to playoff stages.
“If we can progress to the playoffs I believe anything can happen.”