Tough journey for Fiji as RWC approaches

IN 2011, Fiji failed to qualify out of its pool stages in the Rugby World Cup and Flying Fijians under coach Sam Domoni managed only one win, which was over Namibia.

This poor finish saw Fiji lose an automatic qualification to the 2015 RWC. The Flying Fijians only qualified after playing a World Rugby qualifier where they literally walked over the Cook Islands.

This led to Fiji being pooled with England, Australia, Wales and Uruguay. Fiji needs to have at least a second place finish in the pool which means beating two of the Tier One giants and of course keeping fingers crossed that a Uruguayan upset is not on the brinks.

The team with new blood and now with more players playing top class rugby has been impressive in the past year despite a poor show in the November Tests.

But that does not change the fact that Fiji has been placed in a pool where it will be considered a miracle if the team does manage to make it out of the pool stages. So it is the second Rugby World Cup Fiji is looking at where they would go and beat only one team and the performances of neighbours Tonga and Samoa overshadow the Flying Fijians’ effort?

Fiji Rugby national head coach John McKee does not think so. The man who has the task of ensuring that Fiji’s rugby improves and the Flying Fijians make an impact in the World Cup this year believes that Fiji could do it.

“I am looking for players everywhere and we have players who are playing in the top competitions in the world. Mosese Rauluni is in Brisbane where he has been liaising with the Super Rugby boys and the sets of players based in Australia and New Zealand,” McKee said. “And then we have the players who are based in Europe. What we really want to do is to take the best set of players there is to the RWC.”

The Flying Fijians will gather for the June Tests and then for the Pacific Nations Cup in July and August. This will indicate how strong the team is.

Let’s look at the teams in Fiji’s pool and see if Fiji has ever beaten them and does Fiji look to formidable opponents on paper.

England.

Fiji and England have met five times since 1988 and Fiji have lost all five of them. In 2009, two years before the last RWC, Fiji was hammered 58-23 in the November Tests, that score being the highest England has scored against Fiji.

The Flying Fijians came the closest in 1988 when England played at the National Stadium. Fiji lost that game 24-12.

The last time the two teams met was 2012 during the November Tests when Fiji went down 54-12.

Australia

Fiji and the Wallabies have had a rugby relationship since 1952. The two have met on 19 occasions, from that Fiji has only won twice, drawn once and lost 16 times.

After 1954, the Flying Fijians have failed to beat the Wallabies, the closest they have come was in 1976.

In modern rugby, the Wallabies have never lost to Fiji and have never shown any signs that they would.

Wales

The Flying Fijians and the Dragons share a rivalry much loved by rugby fans. The two have been meeting since 1986.

That makes 10 tests of which Fiji won only once. This win would still be clear as it happened in the 2007 Rugby World Cup when prop Graham Dewes snatched a 38-34 victory to oust Wales. Fiji then going on to play a more memorable quarter-final against South Africa.

The last time Fiji played Wales, the Flying Fijians failed to register a single point.

So that is the hurdle the Flying Fijians are looking at.

On paper, Fiji does not look to make it out of the pool stages but as the world knows, when the ball is flowing, the Flying Fijians can never be predicted.

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