Fiji are going to win the Rugby World Cup. Or at least every Fijian tells me so.
In the week I have been in Fiji, it is plain that the people are even more rugby mad than New Zealanders, and far more confident.
My name ceases to be Ethan when my nationality is learned, and is instead replaced with the far more fitting “All Blacks.”
What follows is a sometimes cohesive, often repetitive, but always passionate discourse about why Fiji are going to qualify first in their group, and of course, go on to beat NZ in the final.
It goes something like this (some points added and others omitted for the sake of space and sensibility):
1. The Power of Sevens
Fiji have many of their Sevens players in their squad for the World Cup making them untouchable in open rugby.
My first cab driver informed me very seriously that if England are not able to kill the game through kicking and set pieces, Fiji will win. I believed him. Mostly.
They have enough pace, and hopefully enough fitness with the added Sevens players, t0 keep up their running, basketball style of footy for 80 minutes.
Done successfully, this style of rugby may shake England enough for us to see an upset in the first game of the tournament.
In an exclusive interview with Rupeni Caucaunibuca (as well as William Ryder’s) cousin and former Fijian age restricted representative (he was by coincidence my cab driver), I was informed that Fiji have comfortably dealt with Canada, Samoa and Ireland in their last three matches, and believe they can now deal with England.
This is a squad high on confidence who believes they can beat the best. Is this belief unfounded? Yes. Could they ride this wave of believe to the final? Potentially.
3. Healing Powers
I, by chance, drove past the village this week where Naholo was healed.
According to a local (who’s brother lived in that village), healing broken bones for the people in that village is a piece of cake. A touch of oil and a bit of gentle rubbing can apparently put all of our Western medicine to shame, and they have the results to prove it.
Other villages are renowned for different abilities. One of my coordinators informed me that if I have ever have a burn, the people of her village, who specialise in such maladies, can fix it right up with a bit of oil. Who can stop a team aided by such mysterious powers? England probably. But needless to say, this supernatural strength may give the Fijian team enough of an edge to get over the line in this World Cup.
These reasons will not stand under academic scrutiny, or any scrutiny in general, but they are enough to install a nation with unwavering belief.
In three days time Fiji play England in the opening game of the World Cup and the result is anything but a foregone conclusion. Despite this, me and my fellow Fijian cab-mates believe they will go all the way! Okay maybe just the cab-mates…