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'We’re humble' - Raiwalui rejects favourites tag

By PA
Fiji's head coach Simon Raiwalui looks on during a press conference of the Fiji team in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on September 6, 2023, ahead of the rugby World cup 2023 in France. (Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP) (Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui has cooled talk of his team being billed in some quarters as favourites for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup clash with Wales.

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Wales are currently below Fiji in the world rankings, while Raiwalui’s men saw their tournament preparations highlighted by an historic victory over England at Twickenham.

Fiji dumped Wales out of the 2007 World Cup, and they dominated proceedings early on in Japan four years ago before Wales wing Josh Adams’ try hat-trick inspired a 29-17 success.

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

“We are confident with our preparation, with our group. We never go in thinking we are favourites to win. We’re humble.

“We have worked hard throughout the eight-week (warm-up) campaign, and our focus has always been one week at time, what is the next challenge, what have we got coming up this weekend?

“We’ve been working towards this point, so we are totally focused on this game and nothing past this game. We understand Wales is a very good team, they’ve got a lot of experience so we understand the challenge and we’re looking forward to it.

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“We have worked on certain areas that have traditionally been a weakness for us, so it’s going to be a good challenge in those areas.

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

Raiwalui has strong links to Wales, having enjoyed a successful playing career with Newport, where his form gained him selection for Fiji’s 1999 World Cup squad.

“My youngest son was born in Newport and I played there for a while, so I’ve got a huge affinity for Newport and Wales,” he added.

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“I love the country. There are very similar cultures (to Fiji) in terms of family.

“Like all teams, they (Wales) will be keeping a few things under their belt specifically for their opening game. and we understand there will be some other challenges.

“I think they will look to attack us in the areas they think we are susceptible to, and obviously we will look to impose our game as well.”

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