Hayne ready for a new challenge as Fiji halfback
There is no tactical sub-plot to Fiji coach Matt Adamson switching playmaker positions by putting Jarryd Hayne to halfback and moving Henry Raiwalui to five-eighth for Saturday's Pacific Test against PNG.
Fiji made it to the 2017 World Cup semi-finals with Raiwalui at No.7 and Hayne at No.6 for all five games in last year's tournament.
In Hayne's 205 NRL games with Parramatta and the Gold Coast Titans, plus his nine Tests for Fiji, he has never donned the No.7 jersey – playing mainly fullback, but also five-eighth, centre and wing.
"It's no different. They are virtually the same position – it's just numbers," Adamson told NRL.com of the jersey number swap. In the Fiji team initially announced last Sunday, Hayne was in his familiar No.6 jersey.
But underlying the change could be the new-found belief by Adamson that it's time Raiwalui stamped himself more on the Bati plays.
Raiwalui is 29 but after coming through the Dragons Under-20s side he has been on a journey through reserve grade to try to break into first grade.
He was played with three Intrust Super Premiership sides in the Illwarra Cutters (feeder to the Dragons NRL side), the Blacktown Workers (Manly) and the Mounties (Raiders).
Yet while a journeyman, he has formed a great partnership with a superstar who has been in a winning Australian World Cup side, won an Origin series with NSW, and won two Dally M medals. It seems like the Fijian version of David and Goliath.
"Jarryd has achieved a lot and it's really exciting to work with him. But I'm very impressed with Henry," Adamson said.
"He's got a lot of footy in him. He's one of those guys that's gone along at a certain level and because he's been around so many influential and powerful people, he's more or less played that understudy role.
"I had a chat with him today and sort of encouraged him to step out and become a leader. There's a lot of good footy to still be played in him," Adamson said.
"My expectation on Saturday is seeing Henry rise to another level and play some really high-quality footy. The way he gets this team around the park is second to none.
"So I've been really impressed with his knowledge of the game – the ins and outs of rugby league. He's got it covered – he knows the game back to front."
You could say that about Adamson and coaching. He has been an NRL assistant to Matt Elliott at Penrith, and worked closely with Craig Bellamy as Storm's Under-20s coach.
The former Panthers second rower, who played five times for Australia in the Super League year, as well as twice for the NSW Origin side in 2001, replaces Mick Potter as Fiji coach.
"Really honoured... to represent your country is a great honour but it's another kind of privilege to be asked to represent their country," Adamson said.
"The short build-up is not ideal," he said after putting the Fiji squad through a light session at Newport Rugby Club, which was abandoned when thunder and driving rain sent the players scurrying to the bus.
"We'll have another hit-out tomorrow, then an opposed session against Samoa (on Thursday) and the captain's run on Friday. Look you can't recreate the wheel in three days but the boys were really energetic and I like that," Adamson said.
"There is so much passion and emotion among the players. They really enjoy themselves when they are together."