Fijiana bow out of first-ever World Cup after losing to France
Fiji Women’s Rugby World Cup Squad 2022
Fiji’s first-ever Rugby World Cup campaign came to an end with a comprehensive defeat by France in Whangarei.
There was a lack of fluidity to this match, with handling errors, penalties and injuries meaning both teams struggled to build momentum.
Fiji conceded 11 penalties in the first half alone and had Roela Radiniyavuni sin-binned for a late tackle, which meant they allowed the French a territorial foothold in the match. A 61% tackle success rate didn’t help the Fijiana’s cause and they conceded three first-half tries. In contrast, the French defence rarely let Fiji into their 22.
Fiji managed to hold out France for most of the third quarter but leaked the bonus-point try just before the hour mark. Then injuries to several outside backs started to bite and they were forced to play a back-row on the wing for the final quarter.
France scored another three tries while Fiji struggled to build any realistic try-scoring opportunities and Radiniyavuni was sent off when she received a second yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. Not that it dampened the spirits of the Fijian fans in the crowd, who have been a highlight of this tournament.
Fiji team to play France – Saturday 22 October
Roela Radiniyavuni; Raijieli Laqeretabua, Melaia Matanatabu, Sesenieli Donu, Vitalina Naikore; Kolora Lomani, Ana Maria Roqica; Iris Verebalavu, Vika Matarugu, Siteri Rasolea, Asinate Serevi (captain), Merevesi Ofakimalino, Karalaini Naisewa, Raijieli Daveua, Sereima Leweniqila.
Replacements: Bitila Tawake, Bulou Vasuturaga, Mereoni Namositava, Sulita Waisega, Ema Adivitaloga, Lavena Cavuru, Rusila Nagasau, Talei Wilson.
Fiji 21-17 South Africa
Fiji and South Africa delivered probably the most entertaining match of the Rugby World Cup so far at Waitakere Stadium on Sunday. And Fiji secured their first-ever World Cup win with a last-minute try!
They may be two of the lower-ranked teams at the tournament in New Zealand but they produced a high-octane finale to the second round of pool games. It was harum-scarum stuff and, yes, there were errors, but, quite frankly, it was brilliant!
At times, it was like a 15-a-side sevens game as possession switched hands at regular intervals and both teams did not shy away from risky passes to keep their attack going. The crowd fed off the players’ energy to generate a brilliant atmosphere too.
It was billed as a clash of styles but in reality it was the attacking intent of both teams that made it such an intriguing spectacle. Fiji may have played at a faster tempo, taking plenty of quick taps, while South Africa were more likely to seek content and try to use their power to break tackles, but they were both keen to keep ball in hand and test their opponents defensively.
Fiji led 14-7 at the break after both their wingers – Ilisapeci Delaiwau and Akanisi Sokoiwasa – scored tries out wide after multi-phase attacks, but South Africa had levelled things up by the hour mark.
Fiji missed a penalty that would have seen them take the lead in the 74th minute only for South Africa to slot a shot of their own – Libbie Janse van Rensburg the kicker – a couple of minutes later.
South Africa thought they had won it with that kick but from the restart Fiji secured possession and then won a penalty. Vika Matarugu took a quick tap and Karalaini Naisewa surged under the posts for the winning try.
A fittingly dramatic finish to the match.
Fiji team to play South Africa – Sunday 16 October
Roela Radiniyavuni; Akanisi Sokoiwasa, Talei Wilson, Sesenieli Donu, Ilisapeci Delaiwau; Merewalesi Rokouono, Lavena Cavuru; Iris Verebalavu, Vika Matarugu, Siteri Rasolea, Asinate Serevi, Merevesi Ofakimalino, Sulita Waisega, Raijieli Daveua, Karalaini Naisewa.
Replacements: Bitila Tawake, Bolou Vasuturaga, Mereoni Namositava, Joma Rubuti, Ema Adivitaloga, Kolora Lomani, Ana Maria Naimasi, Timaima Ravisa.
Fiji 19-84 England
Fiji showed their attacking intent in the first 30 seconds of their first-ever Rugby World Cup match when No 8 Karalaini Naisewa burst through England’s defence.
By half-time, they had also scored two tries – and generated the loudest cheers. The first came just before the half-hour mark when Roela Radiniyavuni dummied through the England defence and then fired a wide pass to Alowesi Nakoci to cross.
Next, after the buzzer had sounded, Sesenieli Donu received the ball on the 22, slipped through an attempted tackle by Helena Rowland and glided over.
Ultimately they couldn’t cope with England’s driving maul (bar the first one, which they stopped effectively) and often gave the tournament favourites too much space, but they had the flair and ambition to launch attacks from deep in their own half and test the Red Roses defence, at least in the first 40.
The world’s No 1 side showed their ruthlessness after the break, going back to their solid kicking and set-piece basics as well as moving the ball wide to exploit space.
In all, England scored 14 tries and were thoroughly dominant in the second period but Fiji had the final say when scrum-half Lavena Cavuru crossed in the last minute.
Fiji team to play England – Saturday 8 October
Roela Radiniyavuni; Alowesi Nakoci, Rajieli Laqeretabua, Sesenieli Donu, Vitalina Naikore; Merewalesi Rokouono, Lavena Cavuru; Iris Verebalavu, Vika Matarugu, Siteri Rasolea, Asinate Serevi, Sereima Leweniqila (captain), Sulita Waisega, Ema Adivitaloga, Karalaini Naisewa.
Replacements: Bitila Tawake, Bulou Vasuturaga, Mereoni Namositava, Merevesi Ofakimalino, Raijieli Daveua, Akosita Ravato, Ana Maria Roqica, Melaia Matanatabu.
Fiji Women’s Rugby World Cup Squad 2022
Fijiana, who played their first Test in 2006, qualified for this World Cup by beating Samoa 41-13 at the 2019 Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship.
They have built up to this tournament by playing Australia and Japan in May before winning this year’s Oceania Championship, during which they beat Papua New Guinea by a record margin of 152-0.
A handful of former Fiji men’s players are in the back-room team. Head coach Senirusi Seruvakula, who won one cap in the back row in 2002, is joined by fellow internationals Inoke Male (lineout), Greg Smith (scrum), Asaeli Tikoirotuma (backs) and Mosese Rauluni (defence).
A lot of this squad were part of the Fijiana Drua’s Super W-winning side and they will be hoping to catch teams out with attacking skills, be it deft offloads or fast footwork.
As well as all the Fijiana Drua players, the World Cup squad includes six sevens players who won bronze at the Olympics and silver at the Commonwealth Games.
Asinate Serevi, the daughter of sevens legend Waisale, is also included having switched from the USA under the new eligibility rules.
Sereima Leweniqila will captain the side and Senirusi Seruvakula said: “She has been one of the standout players and she had played a lot of games for Fijiana and that’s one of the reasons why we have decided her to be the captain and she got the backing of the senior players.
“A lot of girls have stepped up as far as their performance is concerned. These girls have experience playing at the international level, they just need the confidence to play on the world stage.”
Here’s Fiji Women’s Rugby World Cup Squad.
Lavena Cavuru (Fijiana Sevens/Scrum-half)
Ilisapeci Delaiwau (Wing)
Sesenieli Donu (Fijiana Sevens/Utility back)
Raijieli Laqeretabua (Fijiana Drua/Centre)
Kolora Lomani (Fijiana Drua/Wing)
Melaia Matanatabu (Fijiana Drua/Centre)
Vitalina Naikore (Fijiana Drua/Wing)
Ana Maria Naimasi (Fijiana Sevens/Utility back)
Alowesi Nakoci (Fijiana Sevens/Utility back)
Roela Radiniyavuni (Fijiana Drua/Full-back)
Timaima Ravisa (Fijiana Drua/Utility back)
Merewalesi Rokouono (Fijiana Drua/Fly-half)
Ana Maria Roqica (Scrum-half)
Akasnisi Sokoiwasa (Wing)
Talei Wilson (Utility back)
Ema Adivitaloga (Fijiana Drua/Back-row)
Raijieli Daveua (Utility forward)
Sereima Leweniqila (Fijiana Drua/Back-row)
Vika Matarugu (Fijiana Drua/Prop)
Rusila Nagasau (Fijiana Sevens/Utility forward)
Karalaini Naisewa (Fijiana Drua/Back-row)
Merevesi Ofakimalino (Fijiana Drua/Back-row)
Siteri Rasolea (Prop)
Akosita Ravato (Fijiana Drua/Back-row)
Joma Rubuti (Fijiana Drua/Prop)
Jiowana Sauto (Fijiana Drua/Hooker)
Asinate Serevi (Lock)
Bitila Tawake (Fijiana Drua/Utility forward)
Bulou Vasuturaga (Prop)
Iris Verebalavu (Hooker)
Mereoni Vonosere (Prop)
Sulita Waisega (Lock)
Fiji Women’s Rugby World Cup Fixtures 2022
(All kick-off times are UK & Ireland time)
Sat 8 Oct, Fiji 19-84 England
Sun 16 Oct, Fiji 21-17 South Africa
Sun 23 Oct, France 44-0 Fiji
Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.