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We Prefer To Stay Humble: Raiwalui

Flying Fijians coach tells of their chances against Wales and why he opted for Tagitagivalu to start at No.7

Flying Fijians tighthead prop Mesake Doge during training in Bordeaux, France, on September 7, 2023. Photo: FRU Media

Flying Fijians head coach Simon Raiwalui has selected the best available team to face Wales in Monday’s Rugby World Cup opener in Bordeaux, France.

“This is the team that we’ve picked to play well,” Raiwalui said.
“Caleb (Muntz) had the injury this week but everyone else is fit and available. I think we’ve got a good team, we’ve had a very good preparation.”

The former Flying Fijians lock said they’ve had confidence in the whole squad.

“Right from the beginning, everyone’s had their chance (to earn selection). We’ve got strength and depth, I think that’s something we haven’t traditionally had. It’s been a very hard selection so we’ve put out a very good team.
“We’ve got a strong bench throughout, from the front row right to the backline, so we’ve got total faith in the 15 that will start and the 23 that will finish the game.”

When asked on Fiji’s chances after their recent 30-22 win over England and what is his view if they are given the favourites tag going into the clash.

“When could we ever be called favourites when we’re considered a developing country versus a developed country, resources and those sort of things,” Raiwalui said.

“We’re confident with our preparation, with our group. We never go in thinking we’re favourites to win, we’re humble. “We go into this game obviously humble, we’ve worked hard throughout the eight-week (warm-up) campaign, and our focus has always been one week at a time, what’s the next challenge, what have we got coming up this weekend.
“We’ve been working towards this point, so we’re totally focused on this game and nothing past this game.”


Raiwalui said Wales is a very good team as they’ve got a lot of experience.

“We understand the challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”

The wily coach had a playing stint with Newport in Wales during his rugby career.

“I’ve got a huge connection to Newport. My youngest son was born in Newport and I played there for a while. “I’ve got a huge affinity for Newport and Wales. I love the country, very similar cultures in terms of family, so it’s a good challenge and I’m looking forward to the game.”

Raiwalui dismissed claims that Wales would underestimate the Flying Fijians.

“I think they’ll come in very well prepared, they’ll be tactically astute, they’ll be looking at things they can attack us with.
“They obviously have a very good tactical game, kick and chase, the set-piece, so they’ll be looking to put pressure on some of those areas.
‘But we’re a different Fijian team, we’ve worked on certain areas that have traditionally been a weakness for us so it’s going to be a good challenge in those areas.

“One of my catchphrases is play like a Fijian, so traditionally that’s the offloading, the quick touch, the one touch, aggressive ball carriers, the contact, our set-piece. So that’s what I’ve really pushed, to play like a Fijian.”


In his line-up, Raiwalui has opted to start lanky Lekima Tagitagivalu at openside flanker instead of veteran Levani Botia.

“He (Tagitagivalu) had a selection in 2020 and then some circumstances took him out of the group, but he’s always been a player of extreme quality on and off the field.

“He brings athleticism, he can play multiple positions- lock, back-row, number six, seven or eight, and he’s grown and grown so he’s well and truly earned it.

“It was a very hard selection for the whole group but Lekima’s been very good.”

Meanwhile, Raiwalui confirmed that Vilimoni Botitu who plays for Castres is replacing Muntz.

The match kicks-off at 7am.

Flying Fijians Line-up: 1. Eroni Mawi, 2. Sam Matavesi, 3. Luke Tagi, 4. Isoa Nasilasila, 5. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 6. Albert Tuisue, 7. Lekima Tagitagivalu, 8. Viliame Mata, 9. Frank Lomani, 10. Vinaya Habosi, 11. Selestino Ravutaumada, 12. Semi Radradra, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu, 14. Selestino Ravutaumada, 15. Ilaisa Droasese.
Reserves- 16. Tevita Ikanivere, 17. Peni Ravai, 18. Mesake Doge, 19. Temo Mayanavanua, 20. Levani Botia, 21. Simione Kuruvoli, 22. Josua Tuisova, 23. Sireli Maqala.

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