With the Rugby World Cup fast approaching, it seems like a good time to take a look at the team’s involved in the tournament. Today we’re going to take a look at Fiji and there chances at the tournament.
Fiji heading into the tournament
While it seemed like Fiji were going to be pretty set heading into this tournament, but there have been two big changes before this competition. The first is that Fiji took the surprise move to get rid of former Clermont, Montpellier and Scotland head coach Vern Cotter just seven months before the Rugby World Cup.
Cotter did say he had to leave the job for personal reasons, but it is a massive disruption to their Rugby World Cup preparations. Former Fiji player Simon Raiwalui has taken over as the team’s head coach and has experience playing for Fiji at the Rugby World Cup.
The other major change is in the squad. Since the last Rugby World Cup, four of the team’s top 10 appearance makers all time have retired from the game. The other change is that Fiji have seen a huge number of different players perform at an incredibly high level in domestic rugby over the last few years.
Particularly in the Top 14, Fijians have excelled. But the major change in the squad is that now, Fiji has a domestic rugby side playing in Super Rugby. With the majority of the squad playing for the Fijian Drua, there should be a huge amount more harmony and communication in this team.
We saw the Drua impress in Super Rugby earlier in 2023. They finished the season in seventh, above team’s like the Reds, Highlanders and the Western Force.
Fiji also impressed by winning the Pacific Nations Cup, going undefeated in the competition.
Fiji XV for the tournament
Despite not being one of the top team’s in the world, Fiji have a pretty set team. There are a few interesting selection dilemmas within this team.
Up front, the most experienced prop in the Fijian squad is Peni Ravai and he could start, but the power that Eroni Mawi brings is difficult to pass on. Losing Api Ratuniyarawa is a big loss for this team and so there is not a huge amount of experience in this Fijian second row.
The back row features plenty of experience. Levani Botia is arguably the first name on the team sheet at seven, with Viliame Mata one of the players who could break into this squad.
One of the surprises of the squad selection is the omission of experienced fly-half Ben Volavola. Caleb Muntz has a huge responsibility at this tournament, but he was very impressive in the recent Pacific Nations cup. It makes sense to pair him with the experience of Frank Lomani.
Fiji have a huge amount of talent in the backs. While Waisea Nayacalevu has been named captain for the tournament, how can you not go for the pairing of Josua Tuisova and Semi Radradra. Don’t be surprised if Tuisova ends up on the wing and Nayacalevu may start at centre.
2.Sam Matavesi-Northampton Saints
4.Isoa Nasilasila-Fijian Drua
7.Levani Botia-La Rochelle
9.Frank Lomani-Fijian Drua
10.Caleb Muntz-Fijian Drua
11.Kalaveti Ravouvou-Fijian Drua
13.Semi Radrda-Bristol Bears
Players to watch out for in this Fijian team
Up front, Sam Matavesi is exactly what a modern day Hooker should be. He can make tackles all around the field, while also being pretty reliable in the set piece. Similarly, Levani Botia is going to be a massive player for this team.
He has shined in the last few years despite playing against some of the very best player’s in the world for La Rochelle. There might not be a better player over the ball than Botia. If you give him the opportunity, Botia will produce a turnover with ease and that could be massive for this exciting Fijian team.
The thing that makes Fiji so exciting is the backs that they have. While Radradra and Tuisova will steal the headlines, Kalaveti Ravouvou is a name to watch out for. Ravouvou has recently been signed by the Bristol Bears to replace the outgoing Radradra. He has produced some spectacular highlights in Super Rugby and could easily replicate that in this tournament.
Fiji’s chances at this tournament
Fiji have experience of performing well at the Rugby World Cup. They have been to the quarter-finals twice before, most recently making it there in 2007. This is definitely the team’s best chance of repeating that feat since then.
Fiji have been blessed with a brilliant group. Wales and Australia are a mess at the moment. Both countries are going through a huge amount of change and have been on the end of some poor results recently. Fiji have also beaten both of these team’s before, so could be in place to do it again.
The other two team’s in their group are Georgia and Portugal. Georgia certainly provide a challenge physically, able to match up with them in the scrum. But Fiji have won four of the seven games they have played against Georgia and so it seems like Fiji will be in a very good position to get into the quarter-finals.
The thing that is most exciting for this Fijian side is that if they do progress through the Pool stage, they have a very good chance at making it to the semi-finals. It is most likely that Fiji will play either Argentina or England in the quarter-finals. Neither of those team’s are in brilliant form, so Fiji will look at this as a brilliant opportunity to get to the World Cup semi-finals.
Getting any further than that seems much too far for this Fijian team. But they are still set to have an extremely exciting tournament. I think they have a great chance of progressing through the pool stage and that would certainly be a successful tournament for Fiji.
Prediction of Fiji’s Rugby World Cup performance: Quarter-final exit