RWC 2023 | Royal inspiration for Fiji

FIJI Water Flying Fijians Number 8, Viliame Mata on attack against the Wallabies during their second pool match of the Rugby World Cup at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint Etienne in France. Picture: MARTIN SERAS LIMA

THE Flying Fijians have been boosted by well wishes from King Charles in Bordeaux last Friday as the team prepares for their next pool match against Georgia this weekend.
King Charles surprised the team in what trainer Nacanieli Cawanibuka said was a “cool experience”.
“It was a great experience. We formed a walkway for him and escorted him out and the boys sang a prayer song for him… what the warriors back home in their villages would do to protect their chief. It was quite special,” Cawanibuka said.
“Before he boarded his car, the boys all stood there and sang a prayer song. I’m not sure if King Charles understood the words but that’s what’s special about Fiji culture, we sing a prayer hymn that has a lot of deep meaning. He quite enjoyed it and the boys really enjoyed the experience.
“We never dreamt as rugby players to experience something like that, but it’s the blessing of the talent that these boys have. It was a cool experience.”
Cawanibuka added it was an experience the players would not forget.
“Good luck in your next match,” King Charles said to the team as he turned to leave.
The Fijians have been preparing in Bordeaux in the past week, following their victory over Australia in Saint-Étienne the weekend before.
Head coach Simon Raiwalui said they were focused on the job at hand and would not underestimate Georgia.
Fiji is tipped to join Wales from Pool C as the runner-up after Australia lost their clash against the Welsh on Monday morning.
But they must win against The Lelos on Sunday and Portugal next week.
Raiwalui said the team members understand what they need to do.
“We are looking forward to this week. There’s a lot of talk out there about what we need and what we need is to prepare well and perform in the weekend,” he said at a media briefing in Bordeaux.
“We have got huge respect for Georgia, we have played them a number of times, we are at similar stages of our development and we know it is going to be a really huge challenge.
“We are going to put our best preparation forward and hopefully perform on Saturday.”
Fiji and Georgia have played each other six times on the rugby field. The Fijians have the advantage having won four games, Georgia once and a game that ended in a draw in 2021, a 15-all game.
Georgia recorded their only win in 2016 with a 14-3 scoreline. The two teams also met at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan where Fiji won 45-10.
Utility backline player Josua Tuisova said they cannot underestimate Georgia and Portugal, who he said, were strong sides that can cause upsets on any given day.
Tuisova said the players were treating the Georgia game as a final.
“They are both good teams and we do not take them lightly. This week is Georgia and I have played some of the players playing for Georgia,” Tuisova said.
“We treat this game as a final for us and (will) try to win this game.”
Fiji faces Georgia at 3.45am on Sunday (New Zealand time)
Raiwalui and his management team are expected to name their match-day 23 on Friday.

Tonga has ‘nothing to lose’ against Springboks
Ikale Tahi number eight Sione Vailanu says their matches against Ireland, Scotland and South Africa are good testing grounds for them.
“It is a huge learning for us to improve ourselves against tier one especially. We will take the learning and definitely make
sure, as tier two, to step up to that level,” he said.
“I think we have nothing to lose at the moment.”
Tonga is out of the running for a quarterfinal spot following their 45-17 loss to Argentina, and their opening loss to
Ireland a week earlier. They meet defending world champions South Africa in Marseille on Monday morning.
Prop Siegfried Fisi’ihoi said despite the loss to Scotland they were still happy about what they had been able to do.
“Other than the scoreboard, I thought the boys were really good, especially our defence. It was a good fight out there,” he said.
“We will have a good look for ourselves tomorrow and then after that we are going to leave everything behind. You win some, you lose some, you leave that and look forward to the next game.”
He said they would take on South Africa with their best efforts.
“We have nothing to lose, even in the last two games,” he said.
“We have come here to play. We have not come here to make numbers; we came here to put our best foot (forward).”
Veteran halfback Sonatane Takulua said it had been tough for them, but they were learning and getting better.
“It is a tough one to take, especially coming off last weekend when we lost to Ireland. We trained hard for this game, we knew Scotland were going to come hard as well for the win, but we threw everything out there and the last 20-30 minutes started to punch through (our defence),” he said.
“We learned a lot from the Ireland game and this weekend we proved we can play rugby when we hold onto the ball. The scoreboard did not show that but everyone gave their all.”
Head coach Toutai Kefu said nothing had changed for them and they would give the Springboks their best shot.
“It is another massive Test match for us. But we will turn up, bring our best and fire some shots next week,” he added.
The Tongans have South Africa this weekend and Romania in their last game next week.

Tonga is out of contention for a quarterfinal spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Picture RNZ

Manu Samoa focuses on Japan

Team co-captain Michael Ala’alatoa said the clash against Argentina taught them a lot of things.
“The feeling in the change room was of disappointment. These games are really valuable, playing against tier one nations, to feel the pressure of the crowd and the team that is really clinical at what they do,” he said.
“Disappointed with the loss, but we will take a lot out of it in terms of learnings and what it takes to win tight test matches.”
He said there were a lot of positives they hope to build on against Japan this weekend. “With five minutes to go we still gave ourselves a chance to win the game. I think we can all admit that we were not at our best,” he said.
“We created a lot of opportunities in that second half and a couple of dropped balls, missed moments – if we fix those up
then we will have even more opportunities.”
He said playing a lot of top games against tier one teams would help and that is what they need to help them build how to handle playing under pressure.
“I put it down to a lot of things. We do not get games like this often. We probably get games like this every four years against really top-level tier one opposition,” he said.
“When the games are that tight, we need to nail our stuff. That’s our big work on for next week.
“We have an awesome opportunity to come up for the next two games and that’s all we are worried about. If we nail those then teams are going to want to play us.”
Flyhalf Alai D’Angelo Leuila said they were already focused on the Japan game.
“Just as a team we were talking about the game and the things we could have done better,” he said.
“But there was not that much talk about today’s game, we were more looking to next week’s game and making sure we really come out firing.”
He said this week they would have to rectify their handling skills, especially as they lost a lot of knock-on balls against the Pumas.
He still believes the team has yet to show their best at the World Cup.
“The world’s not yet seen the best of Samoa,” he said.
“Hopefully we have a good week and come out and put on a good performance for everyone to see.”
Flanker Sa Jordan Taufua said they needed to play well under pressure and that was something they would have to do against Japan, who he said is a quality team.
“It’s us executing our game under pressure. We had a lot of opportunities we did not finish. The good thing is we do not have long to dwell on it because we have got a game on Thursday,” he said.
“Japan are a quality team. We know what they can when it is their day. Going into Japan we are looking at as a fi nal. Today was Argentina’s final and they showed up. Every game from here is a final.”
Manu Samoa meets Japan in Toulouse at 9pm here in France on Thursday, which is 8am on Friday in Samoa.
They need to win the game with a bonus point to line them up against England next week in their last pool match.
Samoa are second on the points table in Pool D ahead of Argentina but will need to win both remaining games to qualify ahead of the Pumas into the quarterfinals.

Samoa’s Tumua Manu in action with Japan’s Jone Naikabula. Picture REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

 ILIESA TORA writes for RNZ and is in France covering the Rugby World Cup


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