Pa­cific Is­lan­ders de­ter­mined to show they’re not just Sev­ens kings

The Rugby Paper's Essential - World Cup Guide 2019 (Irish Edition) - - CONTENTS -

FIJI are on a spe­cial World Cup raid­ing mis­sion, aim­ing to prove beyond any doubt they have the men­tal toughness and de­sire to be se­rial win­ners as well as the game’s great show­men.

The Pa­cific Is­lan­ders want to dis­play their se­ri­ous pro­fes­sional game faces when they land in Ja­pan, and not just smile, be friendly and pro­vide the breath­tak­ing thrills, skills and colour.

New­cas­tle Fal­cons’ Josh Matavesi in­sists his coun­try, which now pretty much rules the Sev­ens roost and is now dream­ing of sit­ting on top of the fif­teens throne, is leav­ing no stone un­turned in the bid for suc­cess.

Shrewd New Zealan­der John Mckee is see­ing the fruits of his five years of labour as head coach, adding that steely de­ter­mi­na­tion and solid struc­ture to the nat­u­ral ball-play­ing prow­ess. The shock 21-14 vic­tory over France in Paris last Au­tumn showed just what the team are now ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing with grow­ing be­lief and con­fi­dence.

Send­ing out a warn­ing to Aus­tralia and Wales, who are in the same pool, 28-year-old cen­tre Matavesi said: “If peo­ple think we are just go­ing out to Ja­pan to make up the num­bers and put smiles on faces but win noth­ing then they are mis­taken. This Fi­jian squad should be taken se­ri­ously, and while we love play­ing fan­tas­tic rugby, we also en­joy win­ning.

“The whole ethos around our squad is that we are not scared of any­one. That we go out there to frighten the op­po­si­tion and not be wor­ried about what they can do to us, no mat­ter who they are and how suc­cess­ful they have been over the years.

“We are a dan­ger­ous team when we have time to spend to­gether and I hate to think what we are go­ing to be like af­ter 12 weeks! We are go­ing to be the best pre­pared Fiji team at a World Cup be­cause of that ex­tended time and in the buildup games we will have time to try dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions and to re­ally gel.

“Fiji have been un­der­es­ti­mated in the past and have caused up­sets in World Cups, and the aim will be to do the same in Ja­pan. But to us it will not be an up­set. We ex­pect to win ev­ery game we play. Peo­ple said it was a sur­prise for us to win in Paris but we felt we could beat France that day and the team stepped up to do a great job.

“Peo­ple liken us to the Har­lem Glo­be­trot­ters, but the team has evolved con­sid­er­ably in the last few years and there is a new di­men­sion to the way we play.

“John (Mckee) has given us the struc­ture to have that foun­da­tion to build our at­tack­ing moves and then fin­ish them off. You need to be clinical and de­ci­sive to score the tries in the big games, and that’s what we have now added to our per­for­mances.”

And Matavesi also hailed the fact Fiji have strength in depth.

He said: “There are so many play­ers avail­able and I wouldn’t want to be in John’s shoes hav­ing to cut it down for Ja­pan. Hope­fully I can be in­volved be­cause when you look at the qual­ity and abil­ity there is in the Fiji squad it prom­ises to be an ex­cit­ing World Cup.”

Fiji are warm­ing up for the World Cup at­tempt­ing to win a fifth con­sec­u­tive Pa­cific Na­tions Cup. They play Ja­pan in Hana­zono hop­ing to get up a head of speed be­fore open­ing their Webb El­lis Cup cam­paign against the Wal­la­bies on Septem­ber 21

in Sap­poro. Coach Mckee has had his work cut out trav­el­ling the globe to visit and talk to his play­ers who are scat­tered in most cor­ners of it ply­ing their, mostly pro­fes­sional, trade. But he be­lieves it’s pay­ing off.

He said: “With Pa­cific Is­land rugby, and par­tic­u­larly Fi­jian rugby, peo­ple have al­ways said ‘great at­tack­ing rugby but wob­bly scrums and li­ne­outs’. We’ve made massive im­prove­ments in the scrum as ev­i­denced in the 2015 World Cup.

“I think the fan­tas­tic achieve­ments of the Sev­ens side is in­spir­ing the fif­teen men to re­ally step up and show they can be just as suc­cess­ful on the big­gest stage. I have ev­ery con­fi­dence in this set of play­ers to pro­duce some won­der­ful per­for­mances and re­sults in Ja­pan.”

On the Fi­jians he ex­pects to sparkle in the Ja­panese spot­light, Mckee added: “Semi Radradra is a world-class tal­ent who is quick, strong and runs good lines. He will take a lot of stop­ping. Leone Nakarawa is an out­stand­ing, ath­letic, world­class lock.

“Jo­sua Tuisova went to

France as a young guy, and with wing be­ing a strength, we let him fo­cus on the sev­ens lead­ing up to the Rio Olympics rather than rush­ing him into the Fly­ing Fi­jians. He hasn’t played a lot of Tests but he’s one who could re­ally light up the World Cup.

“We have plenty of guys who can cause havoc in the backs and for­wards. I just have to help them get in the right shape men­tally and phys­i­cally to be able to cause that havoc!”

Fiji cap­tain Do­miniko Waqaniburo­tu will be out to take ma­jor scalps in Ja­pan

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