Fiji pack away old image with new mindset

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Pool C - Australia v Fiji - Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne, France - September 17, 2023 Fiji's Tevita Ikanivere, Ilaisa Droasese and Samuel Matavesi celebrate after the match REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

SAINT ETIENNE, France (Reuters) – Fiji have dispelled the notion they are a carefree team with talented individuals but little collective cohesion, coach Simon Raiwalui said on Sunday after they upset Australia to boost their chances of a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

Raiwalui hailed the efforts of his players after their 22-15 win, which has thrown the outcome of Pool C wide open.

“We have traditional areas of the game where the Tier 1 nations attack us and I think those are the areas where we’ve really improved on,” he said. “I think that teams talking of us as a bunch of very talented individuals is no longer; we’ve now got a very good team of talented, talented players. So it’s all credit to these boys.

“I couldn’t be prouder. It’s not just today. It’s a culmination of the work we’ve done since the beginning of the campaign. We pushed the boys to the limits and they’ve never once complained. When you work hard, you get the results so I’m super proud of them,” he told the post-match press conference.

The victory — their first over Australia for 69 years — gives them a chance of finishing in the top two in the pool after they lost narrowly to Wales last week.

“Today was all about staying alive in the tournament. We’ve had that mindset from the beginning. If we do the things right, prepare well then we’ll be in there every match,” Raiwalui said.

“It was two teams with a similar style although we controlled the ball better today. I’m happy for this group, I’m happy for our captain who led from the front from the start. We pushed them hard from the beginning of 12 weeks of preparation. We wanted to… change our identity, what we stood for.”

Fiji were prepared for Australia to come at them in the set piece, said Raiwalui. “We have a real mindset to go in there and win those battles.

“It’s a new generation that is taking Fiji rugby forward.”

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