Unpredictable Fiji

wakaya 19TODAY’S Blast from the Past takes a look at the beginning of the Rugby World Cup co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia in 1987, one of the darkest years in Fiji’s history.

It was the year that the world crowned its first RWC champions New Zealand and at home Fiji experienced one of its worst nightmares when Sitiveni Rabuka staged the first coup.

Fiji’s image and reputation as a nation of friendly and ever-smiling people, was tarnished by the military takeover.

On a very different platform, Fijian warriors, led by captain courageous Koli Rakoroi took on the best in the world in a competition that has grown stronger over the years.

The team that year included the big kicking policeman Severo Koroduadua at fullback. The back line included the likes of Serupepeli Tuvula, Epineri Naituku, Tomasi Cama, Kavekini Nalaga, Willie Rokowailoa, Pauliasi Tabulutu, Paula Nawalu, Jone Kubu, and Sirilo Lovokuru.

The pack had tough men such as Sairusi Naituku, Salacieli Naivilawasa, Rusiate Namoro, Ilaitia Savai, Peceli Gale, Manasa Qoro, John Sanday, Epeli Rakai, Livai Kididromo and Samu Vunivalu.

Fiji were billed to play Argentina, Italy and co-host New Zealand. Under the guidance of head coach Josateki Sovau and our Kiwi technical adviser George Simpkin, Fiji qualified for the quarters, causing a major upset by beating the Pumas 28-9 before we lost to Italy by three points (15-18) and to New Zealand 13-74.

The 1987 RWC had many spills and thrills including one that when giant Nawaka openside flanker Manasa Qoro became the first forward to split the uprights with a 48-metre drop goal, inking his name in the history books as one of the finest moments of Fijian brilliance.

Qoro, years later would laugh about how he thought the referee’s whistle had gone, and instinctively he had taken a drop goal, only to be reprimanded later by skipper Rakoroi about his role as a forward enforcer.

While that year the Fijians were underrated, this year the Flying Fijians are rated among some of the powerhouses of world rugby.

As we countdown to the RWC 2015, pundits are already earmarking the Flying Fijians to do wonders after the naming of the final squad.

The Flying Fijians battle hosts England on September 18, on September 23 takes on Australia, and on October 1 we face Wales, and in the final pool game on October 6 we battle Uruguay.

Wallabies legend George Smith is tipping a RWC boilover, with Australia and Fiji to progress from the group of death ahead of hosts England and Wales, Fox Sports reported.

Pool A is by far the toughest at the tournament, with most experts expecting one of the “big three” — Australia, England and Wales billed with Fiji and Uruguay to miss out.

But Smith, the great 111-Test flanker, told walesonline.co.uk he believes unheralded Fiji are poised to turn next month’s tournament on its head.

“It’s going to be extremely competitive in, as they say, the pool of death,” Smith said.

“The English and Welsh, from what I’m led to believe, have been training extremely well while Australia have won the Rugby Championship.

“But I think Fiji are going to go through with Australia.

“I played against a number of their players in the French Top 14 last season while I was with Lyon and they are very good,” he told walesonline.co.uk.

Host nation England was chosen to host the competition in July 2009, beating rival bids from Italy, Japan and South Africa.

The competition’s organisers, RWC Ltd, had recommended England to the International Rugby Board (IRB — now known as World Rugby).

Of the 20 teams competing at the 2015 RWC, 12 qualified by finishing in the top three places in their pools in the 2011 RWC.

The other eight teams qualified through regional competitions. Of the 20 countries that competed in the previous RWC in 2011, there was only one change — Uruguay replaced Russia.

Fiji coach John McKee has named his 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup.

Source: Fiji Times