Fiji looking for an explosive World Cup start

Fiji hope an explosive Rugby World Cup start against ultra-minnows Namibia will help banish a troubled build-up and propel them towards a second successive quarter-final.

A diplomatic row, illness and a string of poor results have all overshadowed preparations for Fiji, who are now sitting on their worst ever world ranking of 15th.

Forward Leone Nakarawa had to resign his army commission to even attend the World Cup after New Zealand refused to relax a ban on visits with people connected with Suva’s military regime.

And they suffered a last-minute hitch when number eight Sisa Koyamaibole was forced to fly home from New Zealand after his son fell ill.

“We’d rather him go there and sort out the situation than playing here and worrying about it from far away. We’re comfortable with the decision,” said coach Samu Domoni.

The difficult period, also including defeats to Samoa, Tonga and Japan, at least ensures there is no danger of complacency despite Fiji’s 67-18 demolition of Namibia in 1999 — their biggest World Cup win.

“We’re not going in too confident. We’re there to do a job and the boys know the task ahead of them,” Domoni said.

Centre Seremaia Bai is the only survivor from the 2007 quarter-final against South Africa, while Waisea Luveniyali is preferred at fly-half to the more experienced Nicky Little.

“Waisea has matured into his role and he’s much fitter than when he came in to play against the Wallabies in 2009,” Domoni said.

“The maturity that he’s shown and the confidence with the people that are around him gives him the edge over Nicky.”

Captain Deacon Manu was expecting a tough forwards battle against Namibia, who are now competing in their fourth World Cup — but are still searching for their first win.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us to put a marker down on the ground really early because we know they’ve taken apart some forward packs in recent months,” Manu said.

“I think we’ve got a lot of leaders in the side, which is fantastic. Guys who have been to World Cups before. Even the people who aren’t in the 22 are having a huge influence off the field and on the training pitch.”

Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt has included two uncapped players, prop Raoul Larson and winger Danie Dames, while hooker Hugo Horn will become the country’s oldest World Cup player at 34 years and 124 days.

And scrum-half Eugene Jantjies backed the Welwitschias to trouble Fiji in Saturday’s Pool D clash in Rotorua, south of Auckland.

“There’s going to be a surprise on Saturday. We’re going to surprise everybody,” Jantjies said

Team (15-1):

Kini Murimurivalu; Vereniki Goneva, Gaby Lovobalavu, Seremaia Bai, Naipolioni Nalaga; Waisea Sedre Luveniyali, Nemia Kenatale; Netani Edward Talei, Mala Ravulo, Dominiko Maiwiriwiri Waqaniburotu; Wame Lewaravu, Leone Nakarawa; Deacon Manu (captain), Viliame Veikoso, Campese Ma’afu

Replacements: Sunia Koto, Waisea Nailago, Seko Kalou, Akapusi Qera, Vitori Tomu Buatava, Albert James Vulivuli, Iliesa Lomani Rakuka Keresoni

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