For a country whose population is around 1 million, Fiji’s rugby team are hugely successful. Indeed, it is one of only a handful of countries in the world where rugby is the main sport.
On top of their problems with such a small population, they face the challenge that many of their top players are lured overseas to Europe, New Zealand or Australia by relatively high salaries. Fijian-born men playing abroad include Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu, the All Blacks’ wingers, and Lote Tuquiri now of Australia.
Nevertheless, ranked 12th in the world, Fiji will be no walkover at the Rugby World Cup where they will line up in Pool B alongside Australia, Wales, Canada and Japan.
In 1999, the Fijians defeated Argentina, but were unlucky to lose to France after some controversial refereeing from Paddy O’Brien – they were then beaten by England at the playoff stage. Fiji came close to another scalp in 2003, going down 22-20 to Scotland after beating Japan and the USA. This year they will be targeting their match with Wales for an upset as they strive to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
Fiji is renowned for its prowess on the World Sevens circuit, with names like Waisale Serevi and Sireli Bobo synonymous with Fijian running magic. With that in mind, a key player to watch at the World Cup will be scrum-half and captain Mosese Raulini, who plies his trade in the Guinness Premiership for Saracens. Sadly, Fiji’s flying winger, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, will not be on display in France as he is currently serving a ban for using cannabis – see his try below against France in the 2003 tournament.