THE Vodafone Fiji under-20 rugby team departed yesterday for the IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand with high hopes despite being drawn in a tough pool and facing the three top Europe nations of Wales, France and Ireland.
The national side survived the Junior World Championship last year after thrashing United States 46-12 in the 11th and 12th place playoffs.
The result relegated United States to the IRB Junior World Trophy this year.
Fiji U20 assistant coach Iliesa Tanivula said they had a good mixture of players.
Tanivula said the overseas-based players had brought in professionalism.
"There is a lot of enthusiasm in the squad and we are looking forward to the tournament," he said.
"There are four overseas boys who are pretty much exposed to the competitive environment we will be in while in New Zealand. So it is good for them to come and share their knowledge with the local boys.
"An example is Adrea Cocagi who plays in France. He shows a lot of professionalism with time management. It is something that the local boys need to learn step by step. It does not mean that you have to change overnight."
Fiji will start its campaign against Wales at the ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe on Monday.
Fiji second game will be against France at the same venue on June 6. The final pool match against Ireland will be played at the QBE Stadium in Auckland on June 10.
Tanivula said they faced an uphill battle.
"The pool is tough with the top nations from the northern hemisphere," he said.
"It will be an uphill battle for us but we just need to get out there and enjoy our rugby. The boys have had six weeks of intense training.
"We have done the video analysis of the oppositions and we want to better our position from last year. We will take each game as it comes."
England is the defending champions.
Fiji: Forwards: Veniona Toga, Aseri Robarobalevu, Jack Driu, Apolosi Ranawai, Simione Naiduki, Maikeli Sivo, Glen Osbourne, Ilisoni Lagi, Poasa Waqanibau, Lote Nasiga, Paula Bukavere, Marika Tokalauvere, Antonio Qio, Aminiasi Naituiyaga, Vasikali Mudu, Vincent Sosefo; Backline: Leone Dawai, Marika Tivitivi, Tubuka Vueti, Elia Murasia, Josese Kurokava, Maika Baleinaloto, Akuila Tabualevu, Semi Camaisala, Adrea Cocagi, Orisi Nawaqaliva, Aisake Rokobulimaira, Livinai Tuicakau.