Dakuitoga eyes 2026 World Cup

FNRL chairman Aporosa Lutunauga announcing the new Head Coach for Fiji Bilikula, Josaia Dakuitoga (right) and Fiji Bulikula Captain, Josephine Maejiirs (left). Picture: SUPPLIED

Fiji Bulikula coach Josaia Dakuitoga and captain Josephine Maejiirs have outlined their ambitions to use next month’s Test against Fetu Samoa as a stepping stone to qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.

Dakuitoga, who took the Fiji men’s team to last year’s World Cup, will take charge of the Bulikula in the Pacific Championships match to be played in Papua New Guinea on October 15, with Wise Kativerata to coach the Bati.

Maejiirs, who played for South Sydney in the NSWRL competition, will again captain the Fiji women after leading the Bulikula to a historic 28-0 defeat of the PNG Orchids in 2019.

She is one of up to 14 Australian-based players in line for the Test against Samoa, including Wests Tigers teen sensation Losana Lutu, Sharks trio Cassie Staples, Sereana Naitokatoka and Talei Holmes, and Cowboys pair Merewalesi Rokouono and Vitalina Naikore.

“My main objective is to try to qualify the Fiji women’s team for the World Cup,” Dakuitoga, who enjoyed two seasons with Penrith in 1994-95, told a press conference in Suva on Friday.

“We will follow the same process as we did in 2006 with the men’s team and my job is to try to qualify the team for the World Cup.

“There are 14 players in the NRL system, and we want to mix that experience with our local players and just try to blend.

“We want to get this Test on October 15 off our chest and from there we can build, especially our local players. We want to expose our local talent.”

Maejiirs, who took time off from her job in Sydney to travel to Fiji for last weekend’s women’s grand final and to help prepare for the Samoa Test, said the Bulikula would need greater depth to compete with other Pacific nations.

“There are big dreams ahead, we want to win – that is our goal, to win,” she said.

“We are looking forward to this Test match. It is the lead-up to the qualifiers for the World Cup.

“I left work for two weeks and came here to help grow and to help push, and to work with everyone here at the Fiji Rugby League, the coaches and the staff. We are very fortunate that we have a lot of Fijian girls that play at NRLW level and the girls overseas are willing to come across and help get us to the Rugby League World Cup.

“We are going to come back and plan for better opportunities for our girls to develop so that come the World Cup we have a group of girls who are equipped and ready so that we can be competitive on the world stage.”

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