Fiji fancy their chances at RWC ’07

Fiji coach Ilie Tabua is very optimistic that his team’s chances in the Rugby World Cup could send the Pacific island nation into a frenzy.

Fiji are placed alongside Australia in Pool B, and while defeating the Wallabies will be a miracle in it’s own right – the Islanders are fancying their chances over Japan, Canada and Wales.

Should the Fijians knock over these three nations, they will no doubt make a surprise appearance in the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time in their rugby history.

Former Wallabies flanker Tabua said with the entire nation behind the Fijians, his team would set off for France with the much-needed confidence of creating history.

“It’s crazy (the support). It’s just a week to go now,” Tabua told AAP.

After replacing New Zealander Wayne Pivac as head coach this year, Tabua stamped his authority when he omitted winger Rupeni Caucaunibuca from his 30-man Rugby World Cup squad in the wake of the player’s positive test to cannabis while playing for Agen in France.

Caucaunibuca’s three-month suspension expires two weeks into the World Cup but, determined to improve discipline in the Fiji ranks, Tabua opted against including the speedster.

Tabua, who represented Australia at the 1995 World Cup and then Fiji at the 1999 tournament, said his side had moved on from the Caucaunibuca setback and were training the house down in preparation for the tournament.

“There’s been much talk about him not playing but, as a squad, it’s not affecting us,” said Tabua.

“The guys that have been called up have really stepped up and trained well. The feeling in the camp’s really good.

“We’ve done a lot of cross training over the last three weeks and this week we’ve worked really hard on our scrums and line-outs.

“We’re going to France with the notion of playing our best rugby. We’re good to go.”

Tabua rated his side good enough to topple Japan, Canada and Wales in order to qualify in the top two in Pool B and make the last eight.

“Our team in 1999 was our best (ever) but I think this is our best team now. It’s the best of what Fiji has to offer.

“Sixty per cent of our players have been exposed to playing professional rugby overseas and they will help the other guys step up to the level that we’ll need to compete at.”

Tabua nominated the match against Wales in Nantes on September 29 as pivotal to Fiji’s quarter-final chances.

He said Fiji were buoyed by Wales’ 5-69 loss to England last weekend but certainly were not getting carried away.

“Wales would have been fiddling with their team a bit,” the Fiji coach said.

“They didn’t have their best team in Australia either. They could be holding something back.

“In saying that, they wouldn’t have wanted to lose to England like that.

“We play Wales last, after we play Australia, so we’ll use that match against Australia to get ourselves right for Wales.

“(Wallabies coach) John Connolly has said he’ll rest some players like (Stephen) Larkham against us. I can understand that.

“But just because Australia might not be at full strength won’t change our approach. The players that get the opportunity to fill in for Australia will do a good job.

“Australia will still be out to beat us. They wouldn’t want to (lose and) be going against South Africa (in the quarterfinals).

“So we won’t be taking any games lightly and we’ll be looking to put in a good performance against Australia.”

Fiji open their World Cup campaign against Japan in Toulouse on September 12 and play Australia in Montpellier on September 23.


365 Digital

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