(Reuters) - Captain Kevin Naiqama has called for Fiji to play more tests against top-tier opposition to elevate their game following their third successive semi-final exit from the Rugby League World Cup.
Suliasi Vunivalu scored the lone try for Fiji who were thrashed 54-6 by a blistering Australian side with in-form winger Valentine Holmes scoring six of the Kangaroos’ 10 tries at Lang Park on Friday.
Fullback Naiqama believes that Fiji, who beat former champions New Zealand to reach the last four, could not improve unless they faced elite opposition more often.
“The only way we’re going to get better is by being challenged by the bigger teams,” Naiqama said after the match.
“If we aren’t getting many Test matches it’s always going to be big scorelines like that but I feel if we keep playing Australia, the scorelines are definitely going to close.”
Fiji head coach Mick Potter shared Naiqama’s sentiments but said that domestic National Rugby League clubs would be hesitant to send players for frequent international tests and the players might struggle with the workload.
“It’d be great to play first-tier teams a little bit more, but I understand as far as at club level, clubs being reluctant to release their players to play in Test matches cause that’s not the core role of the NRL,” Potter said.
“It’s a bit of a tug of war. I can see the merit, but can understand the players suffering from having to play quite a lot of footy when the game, at the top, is hard.”
Defending champions Australia, who are unbeaten under coach Mal Meninga, are now favourites to beat either England or Tonga in the Dec. 2 final.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty