With 100 days and counting to the Rugby World Cup the players involved in Super Rugby are looking to make their mark as squad selections are made. One player who many sides would love to include is Nemani Nadolo; the powerful Fijian winger who regularly runs the touchline to score dramatic tries for the Crusaders.
I was lucky enough to talk to Nadolo for Rugby Revealed and he shared his thoughts on playing the game at centre for his country and why adding kicking to his game has given him options. Here is just some of that interview and the 5 reasons why I think he is one to watch at RWC2015.
— The42.ie Rugby (@rugby_ie) May 30, 2015
1 He has rugby in his blood
Fijian rugby is on a high after their victory in the HSBC Sevens. The XVs team sit 11th in the World Rugby rankings and in both forms of the game the nation plays a powerful and skilful brand of running rugby. Nadolo style typifies this which is unsurprising when you realise he comes from a family which has excelled at the highest levels of the sport. His younger brother is Chris Kuridrani who plays for the Queensland Reds and on the Wallaby Wing, his cousin is Lote Tiqiri the versatile winger who has made his mark in Union and League.
Nadolo was voted Pacific Rugby Player of the Year in 2015 by his fellow players. Quite an honour when you consider the talent pool of players that the Islands consistently produce for the game. Talking to World Rugby after the announcement, Nadolo explained how grateful he was to win the award. “It’s really humbling, not only to get voted by your peers and team mates but also neighbouring nations like Samoa and Tonga. It’s truly an honour and I have to thank my team mates from Fiji because that’s how I got here, without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
— RWC2015NEWSHQ (@SUPERUGBYNEWS) May 12, 2015
2 He is versatile
While Nadolo plys his trade on the wing for the Crusaders to fit in with the Christchurch side’s game plan, he uses his raw power and skills at centre for Fiji. His skills in such a pivotal position for the Islanders should see him influence the results and that’s a factor which drove his decision to play in that position. “I thought I could get more involved in the game [at centre], especially at international level where I will get my hands on the ball a lot.”
Not content with having exceptional speed, great ball handling, powerful running and defensive skills, Nadolo also performs kicking duties for his country and has aspirations to take on the responsibility for his club side too. “I always knew I was a kicker and I have practiced for the last 5 years. I knew it was a matter of time before I cracked that and now I’m a kicker for Fiji I hope my club Crusaders have seen that and I can take that on.”
Nadolo has an all-round game as he shows for Fiji; from kicks from the half way line to tries run in from his own 22.
3 He is a prolific scorer
Scoring has never been an issue for Nadolo – for his second club he scored 13 tries in seven outings, in the JWC he top scored with 7 in 5. He was top scorer in the 2014 Super Rugby Championship and in the same year started a run of scoring in ten consecutive international games, which puts him equal in the record books with Christian Cullen and Sir John Kirwan.
Not only does he score, he scores some incredible tries, apparently able to literally pull points from nowhere as this recent outing against The Blues shows
His kicking practice also comes in handy when you need to put a kick through the defence.
4 He loves the game
Many commentators remark on the joy Nadolo exudes when he plays the game. It is clear he embraces the physical challenge and relishes the chance to take on defenders. Despite his talents his career hasn’t always run smoothly and this has given him a positive perspective on playing rugby.
“Having a go and enjoying the game rather than worrying about bonuses and the business side of rugby. The advice I got was just enjoy the game and what got you there. No matter where I’m playing now, I’m enjoying the game because if I can enjoy playing rugby all the other stuff will fall into place.”
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) May 23, 2015
5 He can perform on the big stage
Nadolo’s skills for running through, over or round defenders has seen him compared to another winger who came to prominence at a World Cup, Jonah Lomu. Big, strong, and fast like the All Black the Fijian has shown he can certainly break tackles, beat his man, and score or call on his offloading game to keep the ball alive.
While the rugby world eagerly awaits the next “Jonah” Nadolo faces a stern test at RWC2015. Fiji’s progression out of the already congested Pool A looks tough, with them due to face title contenders Australia, England and Wales as well as the improving Uruguay. It will take all his skills to get them out of the group. With Fiji, and Nadolo, rule nothing out.
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby Collegiate All-Americans Head Coach, is a former Ireland A & 7s, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now Head Coach of Dartmouth Rugby. He writes for RugbyToday.com and other publications when not coaching and blogging on lineoutcoach.com