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Rewriting world order

Friday, November 24, 2017

WELLINGTON - If Fiji and Tonga's success at the Rugby League World Cup sees them promoted to the status of a tier-one nation, they deserve to have the same rights as the bigger countries, say their coaches.

The Pacific Island nations are continuing to rewrite rugby league's established world order with Fiji and Tonga advancing to the semi-finals of the World Cup.

A week after Mate Ma'a Tonga became the first tier-two country to beat a tier-one nation, Fiji achieved the same feat, grinding out a 4-2 victory New Zealand in Wellington to reach a third successive World Cup semi-final.

Tonga are now through to their first ever world cup semis after being made to work hard for a 24-22 victory over Lebanon in Christchurch and they will face England, who outclassed Papua New Guinea 36-6.

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf admits the concept of who was and was not a tier-one country may have to be reconsidered after the World Cup. But he said if the likes of Tonga and Fiji were to be considered tier-one nations, then they deserved to have the same rights and benefits.

"I don't think that it would be fair to expect us to beat tier-one nations and come under the rules and regulations (of tier-one nations) if we're not going to get those benefits either," he said.

"Because all the benefits and things like that that you can still get with being a tier-one nation make it a really unfair and unlevel playing band and when you are financially looked after so well to play for those nations, you're always going to see players choose to do that and you certainly can't blame them either."

Woolf said the likes of Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita bucked the trend and made a lot of sacrifices to play for Tonga but that was not the norm and it would not become so unless changes were made.

"The first and foremost thing is to try and find finances to make nations like us — and I put the four Pacific nations that are all really progressing in together in PNG, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga," he said.

"We need to be playing more football — that requires finances. We need to get some benefit in terms of representing our countries. Again, maybe not as much as the tier one but certainly to show that we're respected and our players are respected for the commitment they make and, if those two things happen, then I think you'll find that a lot more players would choose to play for their heritage nations or choose to stay with them."

Meanwhile, Fiji will face Samoa's vanquishers Australia in the World Cup semi finals for the third tournament running, after the tournament hosts thrashed Toa Samoa 46-0 in Darwin.

Fiji coach Mick Potter said he always thought an upset was possible against the Kiwis.

"The players had that belief, I had that belief and all the coaching staff knew that if we did a lot of things right we were a big chance," he said.

"I think we've just gone about our business: our pool games weren't easy but we ran in a couple of comfortable scores and this was going to be a real test for us.

"The guys were keen, I thought we were steadily progressing through those pool games. They were building confidence and I was building confidence in them and they certainly showed that they can handle it and I'm very proud of what they've achieved."

In 2008 the Kangaroos romped to a 52-0 victory while four years ago the margin blew out to 64-0 and Potter accepts the odds will be against them once more.

"I think it's a great achievement for the players and what they've done up until now and it probably shouldn't go unnoticed this particular one as well for their effort," he said.

"And I don't think many people gave them a chance and I think they've been underdogs by a long way, and as we will be this weekend, but there's plenty of fight in the Bati team and that's what we love about them.

"They try their hardest and they secured a result on the weekend and stranger things have happened, and we will see how we go."..

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