Wales will be favourites to top a pool which also includes Fiji, Australia, Georgia and Uruguay, but as the strongest of the Pacific Island nations proved at the 2007 World Cup, they can upset the Welsh and grab a quarter-final place. The power of the current Fiji squad was clearly seen in November when they stunned France 21-14 in Paris.
That result came after the squad had spent just three weeks together under coach John McKee and he will have the players for around three months in the lead-up to the World Cup.
McKee held a training camp for his European stars in Toulouse recently and Matavesi is determined to earn his World Cup squad place on the back of trying to help his club Newcastle stay in the Gallagher Premiership.
Matavesi is bullish about Fiji’s ability to win the World Cup, claiming: “The end goal we have is to win the World Cup and we’re not going to the tournament to just turn up.
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“The whole ethos around our squad is that we are not scared of anyone. We are like the Harlem Globetrotters and John giving us the structure we needed means everyone knows their roles and we are all professional players. That really helps because everyone knows what is expected of them.
“There are so many players available and I wouldn’t want to be in John’s shoes having to cut it down for Japan. Hopefully I can be involved after helping keep Newcastle up in the Premiership and I was in Toulouse for our squad get together.
If any nation has the right to feel aggrieved about the proposed World League, it's Fiji ??? https://t.co/EtRUIgdFQR
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 1, 2019
“It was about making sure that any niggly injuries would be sorted out before we got together again in June and making sure we work on any weaknesses. The message was clear and everyone has to turn up in great shape and we are excited about having 12 weeks together and something like nine games before the World Cup.
“You could see in the November Tests the difference between the first game against Scotland and the last which saw us beat France after three weeks together. We are a dangerous team when we have time to spend together and I hate to think what we are going to be like after 12 weeks!
“We are going to be the best prepared Fiji team at a World Cup because of that extended time and in those nine games we will have time to try different combinations and to really gel.
“You just look at our back row options with Viliame Mata, our own Nemani Negusa, and Peceli Yato and backs like Niki Goneva here at Newcastle along with Josua Tuisova ad Semi Radradra who are the best in their teams. I am excited to have the easy job of just passing them the ball!”
Matavesi added:“There are a lot of islanders in the Newcastle team and we enjoy playing together and there is a natural sparkle and great culture in the whole squad. We have our internationals back and Mark Wilson was straight into training on Monday. He didn’t waste any time and I shows how much the team means to everyone.”
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