Flying Fijians head coach Simon Raiwalui says the future of Fijian rugby is bright despite their quarterfinal exit from the 2023 Rugby World Cup on Monday.
While the Pacific Islanders reached the quarterfinal after 16 years, their fate to further excel in the tournament was denied by England registering a convincing 30-24 victory to advance into the semifinals in Marseille.
Fiji became one of the major highlights of the tournament defeating the Wallabies in their pool games through their exciting brand of attacking rugby full of offloads, powerful running and moments of ingenuity.
“One of the things that’s changed in our pathways is the strength in depth, we have 33 players able to play at the highest level and it shows,” Raiwalui told AFP.
“It’s going to bear real fruit for Fiji rugby in 2027, 2031 (the next two World Cups) and moving on from there because we’ve got a very young generation with the players coming through.”
With the high-performance academy in Fiji, Raiwalui believes the country has a number of opportunities for talented young players to develop their game and build up to the full international level, such as the under-20s team and the Fiji Warriors, the equivalent of a B team.
“The template is there, the system is there for long-term success. There is an exciting future for Fijian rugby.”
He added that Fiji, at the hands of England, needed more international Tests against Tier 1 nations to keep improving, and would like to be invited to join the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship.
“We have to be more consistent when we play, more consistent in our preparation.”
“What we’ve shown this year, we’ve grown in that area and it’s only going to grow as we go towards 2027 and 2031. We have to put ourselves in the shop window with our performance and what we’ve done.”
“And if we’ve got that infrastructure there and consistent success when the opportunity comes up, hopefully, we’ll get a chance.”