By Jack Tarrant
KAMAISHI, Japan (Reuters) – Fiji coach John McKee has encouraged his players to unwind at the beach to recover from their controversial loss to Australia before they face Uruguay in their next World Cup Pool D match in Kamaishi on Wednesday.
Fijian players are used to throwing a rugby ball around on the beach and frolicking in the waves growing up on their island nation and with just a four-day turnaround before facing Uruguay, McKee believes it could be the best therapy.
“We planned for this short turnaround and from the time of the Rugby World Cup we always knew that we would have to address certain things across this time,” he said on Tuesday.
“One of the things we did do upon arriving at our hotel was to use the ocean here for ocean recovery.
“It was something a little bit different but it was very good for our players to swim in the sea water but also it was very relaxing for them and it got their minds relaxed as well.
“Because it isn’t just the physical tiredness, it is the mental tiredness from the big match in Sapporo.”
Fiji had looked on course for one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history on Saturday as they held a nine-point second half lead against Australia before the Wallabies tightened up to win 39-21.
The result could have been different, however, had Wallabies winger Reece Hodge, who went on to score a try, been red-carded for a no-arms tackle on Fiji’s influential flanker Peceli Yato.
Yato missed the rest of the match with concussion and Hodge has since been cited by World Rugby over the tackle.
“From our perspective, we lost a player who was nearly the most influential player on the park at that point in the game, for the rest of the game,” said McKee.
“Because of a head injury he can’t play in this game either. He is still in the return to play protocols.”
“So, we have already lost out.”
Uruguay, ranked 19th in the world and playing in their first match of the tournament, could be just the tonic for Fiji, who beat Los Tecos 68-7 last year.
However, McKee knows his opponent will be more prepared this time around.
“We know Uruguay are a much improved team now in the World Cup and we expect them to be a bit more physical,” he said.
“We expect them, typical of Uruguayan and South American teams, to use their forward pack as a strength and we will have to be very on top of our game in terms of scrums and particularly around our maul defence.”
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)