RWC: For us, this is a must-win game says Fijiana line out coach

Zoe Aldcroft of England in action against Fiji in the Women’s Rugby World Cup pool match at Eden Park. Photo: Andrew Cornaga /

The Fijiana are determined to beat South Africa this Sunday, keeping their quarterfinal hopes alive in the Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Both teams lost their opening games in last Weekend’s opener at Eden Park. The Fijiana were outclassed 84 – 14 while South Africa succumbed to a 40 – 5 loss to France. National pride is also on the line as the loser will most likely end up at the bottom of the pool rankings.

Fijiana line out coach, Inoke Male

Fijiana line out coach, Inoke Male. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Finau Fonua

“For us, this is a must-win game,” Fijiana line out coach, Inoke Male said.

“South Africa, they have huge girls. They are physical at the front and they run the ball in straight lines, that’s what we saw in our review of South Africa in their last two games,

“We’ve walked through the situation will be in on Sunday, so our coach has set out a program for the girls to counter the South African forwards. Come Sunday will be prepared for South Africa.”

Despite being considered underdogs in the tournament, there was optimism that Fijiana could pull off some upsets as many of its players have been extracted from the Fiji Women’s Sevens team who won bronze at the 2020 Olympic Games.

“We consider ourselves to be underdogs. It’s not going to be easy, but we have to play at our best”, said Lock Raijieli Davevua, who was a member of Fiji’s Olympic bronze medal-winning team.

“We have nothing to lose and we’re going to bring our A game. Like our coach told us, we have to win this game.”

“We have a lot of work-on and positive to take away from the England team,” Fijiana centre Raijieli Laqeretabua said.

“South Africa is going to be a physical side so that’s something we’ve been working on training. They have strengths all around but I’m confident our girls will bring out strengths.”

“We want to inspire all the young girls in Fiji,” she said.

Fijiana centre Raijieli Laqeretabua

Fijiana centre Raijieli Laqeretabua Photo: RNZ Pacific/Finau Fonua

Regardless of the results that Fijiana produce at the World Cup, the team has already achieved its most important mission – being the first Pacific nation to qualify for the Women’s Rugby World Cup. It’s a long time coming, with this year’s tournament being the 9th edition of the Women’s Rugby World Cup since it was launched in 1991.

“It means a lot to us”, said Davevua.

“Especially when I think of the small girls back home who are watching. We want them to join rugby,

“I used to play netball before, then in 2016 I switched to rugby. That same year I debuted for Fiji in the 2016 Olympics.”

The popularity of Women’s Rugby has surged in the last decade, with World Rugby pouring millions into developing the sport. Last year, the Super Rugby launched its first professional women’s tournament which included a team from Fiji, the women’s Drua.

Lock Raijieli Davevua, who was a member of Fiji's Olympic bronze medal-winning team.

Fijiana lock Raijieli Davevua, who was a member of Fiji’s Olympic bronze medal-winning team Photo: RNZ Pacific/Finau Fonua

“This is a morale booster for women’s rugby in the Pacific”, Male said.

“In the last three years, as a development officer in Fiji, we have been working a lot on the development of women’s rugby. In the last year, we have seen a build-up across the Pacific, especially in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.”

The development of women’s rugby has afforded greater opportunities for women rugby players to represent their countries. It’s also provided professional pathways for Pasifika women such as Raijieli Laqeretabua – who has played professionally in England for the last five years. She currently plays for Fiji’s Drua in the women’s Super Rugby Aupiki tournament.

“To be the first Pacific team to be in the Rugby World Cup, I think it’s an incredible honour,” Laqeretabua said.

“It’s really important to me. It’s always an honour to represent my country, and I’m really proud and grateful to be able to wear the jersey,” she said.

Source: RNZ