Rugby World Cup 2019: Scotland team guide

When the Flying Fijians reached the last eight at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, they shocked the world. They achieved that feat by playing heart-stopping rugby and snatching a famous victory against Wales. The story of that game remains part of Fijian rugby folklore to this day.

But in the subsequent World Cups, Fiji failed to impress. In 2011, there were glimpses of individual brilliance. In 2015, they showed promise but could not topple their more fancied pool opponents Australia, England and Wales.

But Japan 2019 is Fiji’s time. They will feature in their pack some of the biggest stars in rugby. They enter rugby’s showpiece tournament with depth, experience and form – a team with firepower across the pitch.

Players such as Leone Nakarawa, Peceli Yato, Semi Kunatani, Viliame Mata will lead from the front for the halves duo, Frank Lomani and Ben Volavola, to let loose the menace contained in the backline in the form of Semi Radradra, Josua Tuisova, Levani Botia, Waisea Nayacalevu, and Filipo Nakosi.

Fiji have taken huge strides in recent years, beating Scotland on home soil and France in Paris. They outmuscled the Maori All Blacks, beating them for the first time since 1957, in June.

They did falter in the process, defeated by an excellent Japanese side in Tokyo in the Pacific Nations Cup, which highlighted areas Fiji needed to brush up on before this tournament. The Pacific Nations also allowed them to try different strategies and player combinations.

In their final Test before the World Cup, Fiji overcame Tonga in a physical battle. These gains have planted a seed in the minds of Fijian fans. There is an expectation that this team will deliver.

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Their head coach, John McKee, has spent enough time with Fiji to know what is possible. He believes his players can create something special.

Fijian rugby often has to fight internal battles: administrative, financial or otherwise. Putting that aside, what Fiji bring to Japan is a group of gifted players. Their individual prowess, though, will not suffice.

The team will feature 15 World Cup debutants, while five – including the captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Campese Ma’afu, Kini Murimurivalu, Leone Nakarawa and Vereniki Goneva, will be playing in their third.

To set their campaign in motion, Fiji need to win against the Wallabies. It is that simple. If they do not, the hopes of seeing the Fijians in the business end of the tournament will diminish significantly.

When the Flying Fijians take the field on 21 September, every Fijian, from the remote villages in the most interior parts of the country to the busy bars in the capital, will have their hearts pumping faster than usual.

• Kelvin Anthony is a freelance Fijian sports journalist



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