Fiji should play in Rugby Championship, says hooker Sam Matavesi

Sam Matavesi
Sam Matavesi balances his rugby commitments with his career in the Royal Navy

Fiji should be allowed to play in the Rugby Championship, according to their hooker Sam Matavesi.

The Cornish Pirates forward played in all four of his country's pool games at the World Cup where they led Australia for an hour and caused Wales problems.

He says teams like Fiji and quarter-finalists Japan need to play more top-tier rugby if they are to improve.

"Fiji and Japan aren't asking for miracles, they just want to play against the top teams," he said.

In June, World Rugby abandoned plans for a Nations Championship to start from 2022, which would have given Fiji, Japan and other national teams the chance to take on more top sides.

"If you need to beat a Wales, an Australia, an England or a South Africa, then you have to play these teams yearly, that's the only way you're going to get better," 27-year-old Matavesi told BBC Radio Cornwall.

"Everyone I spoke to enjoyed the games against Australia and Wales, they said they were the best games at the World Cup, but if people want that more it has to change."

The Fijians won Olympic gold in Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympics, but have not made it out of the pool stages of a 15-man World Cup since 2007 when a late try saw them beat Wales 38-34 in France.

Japan's wins over Ireland and Scotland this year and their victory over South Africa in 2015 are the only times a current tier-two side has beaten a top-ranked side at a World Cup since Fiji's win over Wales 12 years ago.

Matavesi says the gap between the top-tier sides and the second-tier teams is so big that without regular games against them the chances of more upsets are rare.

"When you get a chance to play them you're always going to be off, but if you're playing at that level as a country you're going to learn so much," added the Cornwall-born forward, whose World Cup kit was stolen after his car was broken into on his return to the UK earlier this month.

"There's a massive example of Argentina going to the Rugby Championship, they were a good team, but at the minute they're a class team because they play Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all year - it shows."

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