Api days, if their star man plays, but Bati will strong regardless



Fiji are in a strange old boat at the World Cup. They are definitely outsiders, a step down from the big three of Australia, New Zealand and England and probably just below Tonga and Samoa, too.

But on the other hand, they have pedigree over time that nobody outside of the big three can match. Fiji knocked New Zealand out in 2017 and have reached the semi-finals in the last three tournaments, putting them well above their fellow Pacific Islanders in terms of longevity at the top table of international rugby league.

Their draw starts tough – Australia first up – but they should get through a group with Italy and Scotland before running into old foes New Zealand, who, as mentioned, they spectacularly dumped out last time around.

They are also less affected by the ‘who gets picked for Australia’ problem than both Samoa and Tonga: realistically, only Api Koroisau is in the conversation for the Kangaroos, with the Bati’s Origin reps – Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Jacob Saifiti and Tariq Sims unlikely to feature in national selection.

Fiji, however, are affected by the lack of halfbacks blight that also affects Samoa and Tonga. In their midseason game with Papua New Guinea, the difference in spine cohesion between the Kumuls and the Bati was, ultimately, what won PNG the game.

The World Cup will be better, mind. If Koroisau plays, he is the undoubted leader for Fiji through the middle, while his best mate/fellow Panther Sunia Turuva stole the show in the Pacific Tests.

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Captain Kevin Naiqama is the wiliest of old foxes and will likely continue as a five eighth, as he did against PNG, and beside him, coach Joe Rabele has several options that weren’t available to him in June. Let’s get into it.

Certainties

Right, let’s get into the big hitters – and with Fiji, there’s an emphasis on big. Maika Sivo and Mikaele Rawalawa are the starting wingers, with Semi Valemei and Waqa Blake inside them. Oooft.

The forwards will include Viliame Kikau – double ooft – and Tui Kamikamica – triple ooft. Alongside the aforementioned Tariq, RCG and Saifiti, Jacob will be two brothers: Daniel Saifiti and Korbin Sims.

Taane Milne was played at lock against PNG and might continue there. He’ll be in the squad regardless. The halfback will likely be Brandon Wakeham, who was suspended midseason.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Probables 

There’s a host of Super League and state cup options that will fill out the squad. Hull FC provide Joe Lovodua, a livewire 14 option off the bench, and Mitieli Vulikijapani, a winger. Sitivene Mocedreke of the London Broncos will be a squad option for halves depth.

The Bulldogs system provides Penioni Tagituimua and Isaac Lumelume got runs midseason, as did Lamar Manuel-Liolevave, a stalwart in the Queensland Cup.

Possibles

The possibles list is very long, and will largely depend on who coach Rabele values across a variety of different leagues.

There’s hundreds of potential wingers: Pio Seci debuted in the NRL for Manly, Junior Ratuva is yet to be seen in top grade but is a 196cm, 112kg beast in the Warriors system and Jason Qareqare is just 18 but already has a decent amount of Super League.

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In the forwards, King Vuniyayawa is running around for Salford and covers front and back row, Kaylen Miller from Mounties was picked midseason, as was Joseph Ratuvakacerivalu.

Nautu’a Masima was a surprise pick at 7 against PNG, as he’d been playing third grade for Wests Magpies, but went alright and could get another go.

Predicted Fiji squad

1 Sunia Turuva
2 Maika Sivo
3 Semi Valemei
4 Waqa Blake
5 Mikaele Rawalava
6 Kevin Naiqama
7 Brandon Wakeham
8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
9 Api Koroisau
10 Tui Kamikamica
11 Viliame Kikau
12 Tariq Sims
13 Taane Milne
14 Joe Lovodua
15 Korbin Sims
16 Jacob Saifiti
17 Daniel Saifiti
18 Korbin Sims
19 Sitivene Moceidreke
20 Mitieli Vulikijapani
21 King Vuniyayawa
22 Lamar Manuel-Liolevave
23 Penioni Tagituimua
24 Isaac Lumelume

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