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Drua coach claims Aussie teams using 'niggle' to blunt his players' Fijian flair

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22nd February, 2022
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Mick Byrne will take the slow-down tactics as a compliment and expects a more composed Fijian Drua side to test the Brumbies now their emotional Super Rugby Pacific debut is behind them.

The Drua, boasting just one man in five-eighth Baden Kerr with Super Rugby experience, lost 40-10 to the NSW Waratahs in Friday’s opening round.

Byrne’s side scored the game’s last try though and had their moments early, handling errors scuppering their progress before the Tahs got into stride.

There was no love lost between the sides in a niggling scrum battle, while the Drua learnt quickly how teams might plan to wreck plans of an up-tempo offence.

Join experts Brett McKay, Harry Jones and Jim Tucker on Wednesday for a look at Super Rugby round 1 in The Roar Rugby podcast

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“It was interesting … two games against Australian teams (including a pre-season clash with Melbourne) and every time a whistle goes for a free kick someone gets the ball and throws it 30 metres away,” Byrne said.

“They’re obviously understanding of and respect us … they know what we can do and teams will try to do things like that.

“It slows the game down, the niggle starts, the pulling of players … they’re not letting us get on with the game and we learnt from that.

“Having faced it now, there’s a lot of things that go on to try and take your mind off the game.”

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The squad’s exposure to a higher level of rugby came in their first fully-fledged match in general since October 2020.

“What we saw was a team that tried really, really hard to get the job done and made some unusual errors early,” he said.

“If we’d held onto the ball we would have been a bit more like the last 20 minutes, threatening. That last 20 is where we can be, so the expectations haven’t really changed.”

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A damp night at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium didn’t help the Drua’s cause, but they should have few excuses under blue skies in Canberra on Saturday afternoon against the Brumbies’ clinical line-out, scrum and maul.

Fijian Drua
Vinaya Habosi of Fijian Drua. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

“A lot of the stuff in terms of their offload and flair will come out in a 2pm dry afternoon game,” Brumbies and Wallabies winger Tom Wright said.

“I think we’ll see the best of the Drua in round two … you don’t need to be a footy expert to know that if you let one or two stick all of a sudden 10 or 15 offloads are some of the best you’ve seen.

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“They’re a team that will thrive off each other’s energy and No.1 through 23 are probably just as quick and skilful as each other.”

© AAP

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