Impressive Fiji won’t be easybeats
OPINION: At last count, fewer than 10,000 tickets had sold for Saturday’s ‘‘big’’ match at Westpac Stadium.
There’s a fair chance you didn’t know there was any game on there this weekend. Let alone a world cup quarterfinal.
And who could blame you. After all, New Zealand against Fiji is hardly one of international rugby league’s more fabled rivalries.
If the 2017 Rugby League World Cup has registered with anyone, it’s because of Tonga and their fans. They’ve been magnificent and, in the process of doing remarkable things such as beating the Kiwis 28-22, obscured what Fiji have been up to.
There are some funny teams, populated by players with tenuous links, at this tournament. Some of the football’s been of a comical standard too.
Fiji, though, are an impressive team playing impressive football and New Zealand fans needn’t assume that Saturday’s clash will be a walkover. In terms of depth and pedigree, they’re far stronger than Fiji, but you would’ve said the same before they played Tonga too.
The Kiwis might not bring an unbeaten record into this quarterfinal, but Fiji definitely do. Not to mention some quality players.
So far they’ve beaten the United States 58-12, Wales 72-6 and Italy 38-10. Hardly powerhouses of the world game, but emphatic outcomes all the same.
Melbourne Storm wing, by way of St Kentigern College, Suliasi Vunivalu has taken his superb club form into this tournament, scoring tries and starting sets of six off in emphatic fashion.
At first glance, a rugby league game between New Zealand against Fiji might not provide the most compelling case to pack Westpac Stadium. Look a bit deeper and we might not only get a real contest on Saturday, but maybe an upset too.