LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (SEPTEMBER 17, 2015) (REUTERS) – Fiji coach John McKee believes his side have the experience and the ability to upset the odds and qualify from the Rugby World Cup’s ‘Group of Death’.
Fiji won the Pacific Nations Cup but are still widely seen as underdogs in Pool A, where they will face hosts England, Australia, Wales and Uruguay.
They have the honour – and the added pressure – of opening the tournament against England at Twickenham on Friday (September 17) night.
However, coach McKee has selected his team with the pool’s other matches in mind, wanting to have plenty left in the tank when his side take on Australia just five days after Friday’s opener.
“This tournament for us is – this first game is very, very important – but so are the subsequent games. So, the final make-up of the play-offs won’t be decided on Friday night, it will be decided over the whole pool.,” said the New Zealander.
“So, we picked a team that we believe can play very well against England, but also, in the back of our minds, we are aware that we are playing Australia in five days time. So, there is the possibility there of having some fresh players coming into that game.”
Unlike in other recent tournaments, Fiji boast a squad that contains many players with significant experience in the world’s top leagues.
Players like Glasgow Warriors’ lock forward Leone Nakarawa, captain Akapusi Qera and Leicester Tiger’s Vereniki Goneva, all posses the experience to handle the pressure of the opening game at Twickenham.
“Look, I think having a good number of our squad experienced in Top-14, Premiership, Pro-12 games, finals games, European cup competition, that does help. But, given that, the Rugby World Cup is going to be a huge step up from any competition,” insisted McKee.
“So, as I alluded to before, I think, for us, there is some pressure, but with that comes the challenge and I believe that our players will rise to the challenge.”