RWC 2023 Spotlight: Fiji
Fiji may have only made the knockout stages twice in their history, but they have lit up every Rugby World Cup they have competed in. With their willingness to attack from deep and keep the ball alive, Fiji have produced some of the tournament’s standout moments.
We take a look back at Fiji’s Rugby World Cup story.
RWC debut: 24 May, 1987 v Argentina at Rugby Park, Hamilton
RWC appearances: Played 32 – Won 11 Drawn 0 Lost 21 – Points for 732 Points against 971 – Win ratio 34 per cent
Most RWC appearances: Nicky Little, 14
Most RWC tries: Vereniki Goneva, 5
Best finish: Quarter-finals (1987, 2007)
Qualification for RWC 2023: Third place in Pool D at RWC 2019
Most memorable match: Unquestionably, Fiji’s finest hour in a Rugby World Cup came at France 2007 when they beat Wales 38-34 in Nantes. Martyn Williams’ 73rd-minute try appeared to have won it for Wales, but salvation came in the unlikely form of prop Graham Dewes, who burrowed over for his first and only test try to send Fiji through to the quarter-finals.
Iconic moment: Fiji’s first-ever Rugby World Cup win was made all the more poignant by the fact they very nearly didn’t make it to New Zealand in 1987. A military coup on the eve of the tournament had placed their participation in doubt and the organisers had Western Samoa on standby. With such a chaotic build-up, Fiji couldn’t have asked for a better start than a 28-9 victory against Hugo Porta’s Argentina.
Low point: Losing 30-27 to Uruguay – a side ranked nine places below them in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings – at Rugby World Cup 2019. Coming a close second is the 66-0 loss to Wales at RWC 2011, four years after they had beaten the same opponents.
Iconic player: Rupeni Caucaunibuca. After scoring a belter of a try against France, Caucaunibuca, returned from a two-game suspension in dramatic style at RWC 2003 with a first-half brace against Scotland in Sydney. In a demonstration of power and pace, the enigmatic winger bulldozed his way down the left touchline for his first before adding another after a 70-metre run that left Scottish defenders clutching at thin air and trailing in his wake. “Give it to Caucau and he is go-go, gone!” exclaimed the match commentator. Unfortunately for Fiji, they fell just short with Tom Smith’s try settling the match 22-20 in Scotland’s favour.
Record-breaker: Vereniki Goneva became Fiji’s record try scorer at Rugby World Cups when he touched down for his fifth tournament try in the RWC 2015 defeat to Wales. His previous four had all come in one match – against Namibia at RWC 2011. Goneva was unable to add to his tally in two appearances in Japan but is still his country’s best ‘finisher’ at Rugby World Cups.
Did you know? Fiji have twice won a Rugby World Cup … well, the sevens variety! They lifted the Melrose Cup in the shorter format of the sport in 1997 and 2005.
Quote: “Just to be at the World Cup is a humbling experience to see him play with such power, pace and guile,” England head coach Eddie Jones goes all gooey-eyed over Semi Radradra following a superb performance from the centre/wing against Wales at RWC 2019.
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