Pool B - Figi
Coached by Ilivasi Tabua, who played for Australia at RWC 1995 and his native Fiji four years later, the islanders go into this World Cup seeking a first quarter final appearance since 1987 without their star player, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, who has been excluded from the squad as a result of a three-month ban imposed after he tested positive for cannabis. As anyone who has seen him perform with ball in hand can confirm, notably during a two try performance versus Scotland during RWC 2003 when a late Tom Smith try denied Fiji a quarter final appearance, the controversial winger is a loss not just to the Fijian team but to the tournament as a whole.
Despite the selection of fly half Nicky Little who is the most capped player with 60 appearances the squad has a callow look with 13 players yet to reach double figures in Test appearances, nine of whom have less than five caps. In addition two uncapped players have been included - scrum half Jone Daunivucu and wing Filimone Bolavucu - although both appeared against Australia A during the 14 – 14 draw in June in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup.
As usual Fiji can be expected to play it fast and loose and will try to exploit the natural athleticism and ball handling skills which are so suited to the seven-a-side version of the game. Recent form suggests that Fiji will repeat the 41 – 13 defeat of Japan at RWC 2003 during their first outing this time out. Tabua is confident of accounting for Canada which means that the team's pivotal game should be against Wales in the final pool match. A heavy loss versus Australia can be expected.
The team is likely to line-up against the Fijian-born Lote Tuqiri (Australia) during the pool stages which is symbolic of the player drain which the nation experiences (other examples include cousins Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu of New Zealand).
The squad and management team recently received a timely boost when Fiji's government made an additional F$100,000 (€46,000) available to assist with preparations for the tournament.
Coach: Ilivasi Tabua (Fiji)
Captain: Moses Rauluni
IRB Ranking: 12
Odds to win: 1000/1
Number of clubs: 1800
Number of Registered players: 45,300
Matches MT W D L
15 5 0 10
Points For Against
Scores Tr Con Pen DG
36 27 34 6
The out half is the most capped player in the squad with 60 appearances and his leadership and performances will be vital given the relative inexperience of many of his teammates. A nephew of the legendary All Blacks centre Walter Little he made his debut in 1996 against the Springboks at just 19 years of age. He played in all four of Fiji's matches at RWC 2003 during which he scored 45 points.
A former teacher, the centre or wing made his sevens debut for Fiji in 1998 before going on to make his first full appearance against Japan in 2000. He also lined out in all four pool games during RWC 2003 and represented his country at the 2003 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. More recently he has appeared for the unified Pacific Islanders team. Having played for the Highlanders in the Super 12 Rabeni is now contracted to Leicester Tigers.
Raised in Brisbane scrum half Rauluni, who is the son of Taito Rauluni who appeared for Fiji during the 1970s, is one of eight of the current squad who also appeared at RWC 2003. Deceptively strong for his size he is known for working hard in the loose and recycling quickly. He made his test debut in 1996 and was also included in Fiji's RWC 1999 squad. Rauluni plays his club rugby for Saracens.
Number 8 Koyamaibole was named as Fiji rugby's Colt of the Year in 2000 and went on to begin his test career against Samoa in 2001. A very confident player and naturally gifted athlete the powerful islander loves to charge at the opposition and is known for his bulldozing runs. Discipline at the breakdown was once seen as a problem but latterly this has been rectified. Koyamaibole has also represented Fiji at judo.
Rugby in Figi
Rugby was first played on the island by European and Fijian soldiers in the 1880's and is now the national sport. The first club consisted of around 40 ex-pat members. Interest in the sport among the local population resulted in a national team being formed by 1924. Their first international game, against Western Samoa, was played at seven in the morning, to enable the team to travel on to Tonga that same day and to enable the Samoans to go to work afterwards. Nicknamed ‘The Bati', the Fijians first qualified for the RWC in 1991.