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Fiji set to play France and England in pre-World Cup warm ups

By Jon Newcombe
Fijian players sing national anthem during the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup match between Tonga and Fiji at the HFC Bank stadium on July 2, 2022. (Photo by Leon LORD / AFP) (Photo by LEON LORD/AFP via Getty Images)

Undercooked Fiji have put together an extensive fixture list in a bid to ensure they are match ready for Rugby World Cup 2023.

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Due to the impact of COVID-19, the Flying Fijians have only played in 11 Tests since the end of the last tournament in Japan.

But recently-appointed head coach Simon Raiwalui has revealed a far-reaching, five-match itinerary that involves games against three of the top 10 teams in the world rankings.

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“We’ve got Tonga in Fiji on the 22nd (July) in Lautoka, Samoa in Apia on the 29th – I think it’ll be the first test match in Samoa for a number of years so that’ll be a good occasion – and Japan in Japan on the 5th (of August),” he said.

“And then we come up to Europe and play France on the 19th and England on the 26th.

“It is very good preparation for us, ramped up nicely with quality opposition so we should go in to the World Cup battle hardened and well tested and it gives us a chance to get all our combinations right,” he said.

Raiwalui took on the job of leading Fiji to the Rugby World Cup when Vern Cotter resigned at the end of January so only has a limited time window to make his mark before the Rugby World Cup starts in September.

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Following just three Test wins under Cotter, Fiji have fallen to 13th in the world rankings, whilst last year’s World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup title was lost to Samoa.

But Raiwalui believes they can prove that to be a false position in the months ahead and go to France in a good place.

“If we get out performances right, the rankings will look after themselves.”

Raiwalui, 48, is due in Europe later this week to attend a World Rugby workshop and will then formally introduce himself to his European-based players in his new capacity as head coach.

The former Fiji captain and lock, who won 43 caps over a 10-year Test career, had been General Manager of High Performance for the Fiji Rugby Union for the past two years prior to his appointment as head coach.

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Before that, Raiwalui was forwards coach under Michael Cheika at the Wallabies.

Raiwalui has confirmed that Glen Jackson (attack) and Daryl Gibson (defence) will continue to support him as part of the coaching team, while Graham Dewes, the match-winner against Wales at RWC 2007, will stay on as scrum coach.

In addition, Fijian Drua’s Brad Harris comes on board to look after the lineout and mauls, whilst Senirusi Seruvakula, who was the Fijiana coach last year, and former international Seremaia Bai will also assist Raiwalui, with the latter taking on the role of kicking coach.

Fiji are in Pool C at RWC 2023 along with Australia and Wales, who have also had a change of coach in the last few months, as well as Rugby Europe Championship grand finalists, Georgia and Portugal.

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