OSAKA, 8 Oct – Sunia Koto believes Fiji are capable of another upset victory over Wales at a World Cup.
Hooker Koto was one of the stars of the Pacific Islanders’ famous win over Wales at Rugby World Cup 2007 – their only victory against them in 11 meetings – and he senses a similar belief within the current squad preparing to face Warren Gatland’s side on Wednesday.
The 39-year-old, who has returned to the Fiji fold in a cultural leadership role in Japan, was among the forwards who helped defeat Wales 38-34 in France 12 years ago to advance to the quarter-finals instead of Les Bleus.
Koto, above, who acts as a liaison between the Fijian players and their predominantly New Zealand and Australian coaching staff, believes the team are showing signs they can write their own names into Fijian folklore in their final Pool D match in Oita.
“That win against Wales represented a benchmark for Fiji, (showing) we could beat any team, whatever their ranking. It has been a reference point for Fijian players and coaches ever since,” said Koto, who still plays in France’s lower leagues.
“Some of the current Fiji players, Frank Lomani and Alivereti Veitokani, were talking to me about the game. These are boys who were between seven and 10 years old (at the time).”
Modern-day players have the benefits of access to multiple coaches in all facets of the game, a different story to 2007.
“One thing that has really changed, especially in Tier 2 teams, is the mental training World Rugby has identified,” Koto said. “The players are better off now compared to 12 years ago when we didn’t have any mental routine to prepare for this kind of game.”
Not that Fiji lacked for motivation or inspiration in 2007.
“During the tournament, we listened to our spiritual pastor who travelled with the squad, and connected biblical events with our games to give us inspiration,” Koto said.
“In the last team meeting before we headed off to the stadium (for the Wales game), we were shown video messages from our families and well-wishers. Our pastor also spoke about believing in ourselves.
“When we came out of the room, we were really pumped to do our best.
“Since the beginning of the professional era, we hadn’t beaten any Tier 1 teams. Going into that World Cup, Wales were in the top five in the world.
“When we won that game we believed that, if we did the right things well, we could compete against Tier 1 nations and beat them.”
Fiji, who are 11th in the world rankings, must beat No.2 Wales to maintain any hope of reaching the quarter-finals for the third time, while maintaining their current third place would confirm their berth at the next World Cup.
“This Fiji team has been working really hard for the past couple of months, for the people we represent, as part of a very proud rugby nation,” Koto said.
“If they can win, that will hopefully help us to forget about the 2007 victory and to use this as a new reference point for the future.”
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made two changes to their side for their third Rugby World Cup Pool D encounter against Fiji on Wednesday.
Both changes to the starting XV come in the back-row with Ross Moriarty and James Davies coming into the side at number eight and openside flanker respectively with Josh Navidi switching to blindside.
The front five remains the same from Wales’ opening two victories with Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis packing down in the front-row with Jake Ball and captain Alun Wyn Jones continuing their partnership in the second-row.
The backline for Wales remains unchanged with Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar named as the half-backs with Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies partnering in the midfield. Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams line-up as the back three.
Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre,who features in a RWC matchday squad for the first time, and Dillon Lewis provide the front-row cover on the bench with Aaron Shingler and Aaron Wainwright completing the forward contingent.
Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell and Owen Watkin are named as the backline replacements.
RR WORLD RANKINGS – During World Cup the RR Ranking Points are DOUBLED
WAL (on 88.87 points) -vs- FIJI (on 75.68 points) in a RWC match
|Possible Outcome||Rating Point
|If WAL win by 1-15 points||0.000||88.87||75.68||No|
|If WAL win by more than 15||0.000||88.87||75.68||No|
|If result is a draw||2.000||86.87||77.68||No|
|If FIJI win by 1-15 points||4.000||84.87||79.68||No|
|If FIJI win by more than 15||6.000||82.87||81.68||No|
15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 James Davies, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Tomos Williams, 22
Rhys Patchell, 23 Owen Watkin
15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Semi Radradra, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Semi Kunatani, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c), 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Campese Ma’afu
Replacements: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Peni Ravai, 19 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20 Peceli Yato, 21 Nikola Matawalu, 22 Jale Vatubua, 23 Josh Matavesi
Date: Wednesday, October 9
Venue: Oita Stadium, Oita
Kick-off: 18:45 local (10:45 BST, 09:45 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)