Rugby World Cup Pedigree:
With a style of play that is more suited to sevens rugby, Fiji have managed to convert that fast and agile game to the longer form with varying degrees of success. The 10th best side in the world, according to the IRB World Rankings, Fiji have been present at five World Cups, missing out on the 1995 tournament as they did not qualify. On two occasions they have made it to the quarter-finals (plus losing in the quarter-final play off in 1999), can they make it a third time this year?
Best Rugby World Cup moment:
Fiji’s best World Cup moment came in the pool stages in 2007 when a sublime performance from them against Wales sent them into the last eight of the competition. The final score was 38-34.
Biggest Rugby World Cup win:
Fiji 67-18 Namibia, 1st October 1999, in Beziers
Biggest Rugby World Cup defeat:
New Zealand 74-13 Fiji, 27th May 1987, in Christchurch
Key player: Nicky Little
As Fiji’s all-time highest points scorer in Rugby World Cups, Nicky Little is still going strong into his fourth World Cup. The fly-half, who turns 35 during the tournament, remains a physical presence on the pitch, combined with a top class kicking boot and that unmistakable mane of hair. With this expected to be his last Rugby World Cup, Little will want to go out on a high, adding to his points tally as well as his caps record. Injury may have kept him out of the 2007 quarter-final against eventual winners South Africa, he won’t want to miss out again.
One to watch: Vereniki Goneva
Fiji is well known for its speedsters on the wing and Vereniki Goneva is yet another one of the production line. The 27-year-old can play at either wing or centre has shone, not only for his club, French side US Colomiers but also for his country, scoring a try within the first 3 minutes in Fiji’s recent win over Tonga. He also scored in their loss against New Zealand, where he was used as a second half replacement. Like all Fijians he combines his pace with his power with utmost precision, and the fellow members of Pool D had better watch out for him.
Rugby World Cup Fixtures:
10th Sept 04.30: v Namibia in Rotorua
17th Sept 07:00: v South Africa in Wellington
25th Sept 03:30: v Samoa in Auckland
2nd Oct 06:00: v Wales in Hamilton
For Fiji there are two. There is the exciting prospect of their match against Samoa on 25th September, definitely worth getting up at 3am for but the big one will be the repeat of 2007’s pool match against Wales on 2nd October, where once again, the winner will probably be the one to make it through to the quarters.
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“A lot of development is going on with skills at the moment, the players are working particularly hard, in terms of the forwards they’re working on their line outs, scrums, the contact area and the skills that I see are as good as anybody’s and it’s just a matter of how they come together on a given day and one of the great strengths of Fiji out of history is their ability to almost overcome adversity and to really play for their people and their country in a test match and these boys are no different to any of those great Fijian teams so they’re going to be very excited to play for Fiji and I think Fiji will be really excited to watch them play.”
– Scrum coach, Michael Foley
In a tough pool which South Africa are expected to win, it’s between Fiji, Wales and Samoa to fight it out for second place. Unfortunately I don’t think 2007’s heroics can be repeated this year.
Written by Rachel Simmonite