Two time Rugby League World Cup semi finalists Fiji enter the 2017 edition with plenty of expectations following their recent success in the tournament, the ‘Bati’ as their known as will again bring plenty of fight and flair to their matches despite missing some big name players.
What to expect from Fiji
The Bati will be coached by new Bulldogs assistant Mick Potter who has assembled a strong squad despite missing the likes of Tariq Sims, Waqa Blake, Regan Campbell-Gillard, Jayson Bukuya and Daniel Saifiti, whilst Semi Radradra has left for Rugby Union. Potter’s side was boosted by the inclusion of Jarryd Hayne who steered the Bati to the semi finals of the 2008 edition.
Fiji will play physical football and you can expect them to throw the ball around as they will try and work to their strengths, which is their large pack of forwards and exciting back line. Fiji’s weakness is their lack of an ‘established play maker’ so don’t expect to much structured football instead they will turn to the type of game that is natural to them, free flowing Rugby League which should excite their fans.
With a side boasting 22 players from NRL or Super League sides Fiji brings possibly their strongest side ever to a Rugby League World Cup, but there are two names who stick out from the pack and who will be relied on to add the touch of class to the Bati’s play.
Jarryd Hayne is the obvious name to stand out amongst his team mates after achieving so much in Rugby League and playing in the NFL, Hayne is the biggest name in the Fijian side and will shoulder much of the sides expectations. Despite having a poor season where form and injury kept the ‘Hayne Plane’ grounded for much of 2017 he still managed to play State of Origin and his big game experience will help bring confidence to the 8th Ranked nation. Expect Hayne to play 5-8 in the World Cup with the side short on options in the ‘key positions’ coach Potter will start Hayne in the No.6 jersey with captain Kevin Naiqama playing at fullback.
Apisai Koroisau will also be a key man for the Bati as they attempt to make the semi’s for the third consecutive World Cup. Koroisau is coming off the best season of his career and was considered an ‘outside chance’ of being selected for the Australian side after a strong performance for the Prime Ministers XI against PNG. Koroisau will likely play Hooker for the Bati but may spend some time in the Halves with Fijian ‘legend’ James Storer to spend some time at dummy half. Api’s speed around the ruck and strong defence will be relied on heavily by coach Potter as he attempts to keep his flamboyant side focused.
Fiji are in a Group D which is a ‘three team group’ meaning only the Top Ranked side will progress to the knockout stage. Fiji will open their World Cup against the USA in Townsville before facing a tricky Italian side in Canberra before finishing off against Wales in Townsville.
The Italian match shapes as the biggest stumbling block for Fiji boosted by the inclusion of James Tedesco the Italians have assembled an impressive side, despite this the Bati will still be favourites to top their group where they will likely face either Samoa or Tonga in an all Pacific Islands Quarter Final Blockbuster.
I see Fiji’s tournament ending in the Quarter Finals as the loss of too many key players coming back to hurt them, but the ‘Bati’ will fight as their namesakes did the traditional Warriors of Fiji and they’ll do the name and their Country proud.
Kane Evans (Sydney Roosters), Salesi Faingaa (Parramatta Eels), Jarryd Hayne (Gold Coast Titans), Tui Kamikamica (Melbourne Storm), Viliame Kikau (Penrith Panthers), Apisai Koroisau (Manly Sea Eagles), Joe Lovadua (St George Illawarra Dragons), Taane Milne (St George Illawarra Dragons), Sitiveni Moceidreke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Marcelo Montoya (Canterbury Bulldogs), Kevin Naiqama (captain, Wests Tigers), Ben Nakubuwai (Gold Coast Titans), Henry Raiwalui (Mounties), Mikaele Ravalawa (Canberra Raiders), Junior Roqica (London Broncos), Jacob Saifiti (Newcastle Knights), Ashton Sims (Warrington Wolves), Korbin Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Pio Seci (Nabua Broncos), James Storer (Port Kembla Blacks), Akuila Uate (Manly-Sea Eagles), Eloni Vunakece (Sydney Roosters), Suliasi Vunivalu (Melbourne Storm), Brayden Wiliame (Catalans Dragons).