Smarting from first RWC outing, Fijiana keen on more quality games

Fiji is among a handful of teams that return home this week after falling short of making the quarterfinals at the RWC2021, but they leave with big learnings that both coach Senirusi Seruvakula and skipper Asinate Serevi believe augur well for the future of the Fijiana and women’s rugby in the country.

The Fijiana wrapped up their RWC2021 pool proceedings on Saturday with a 44-0 defeat by France, their second loss following their 19-84 defeat to England in their opening game. Their only win, and a historic one at that, came in their second game by way of 21-17 victory over South Africa, enough to catapult them to the top 20 places in the World Rugby Women’s ranking at 16th place. Their move up the rankings is a big jump for the Fijiana in a sport space of time considering they entered the rankings at number 32 when they were first introduced in February 2016.

Reflecting on the side’s performance in their first RWC outing, Seruvakula said: “I’m very happy and I’m very proud of the girls. We take back one win. I know my girls – more than 80 percent, they’ve learned to play rugby this year. For us to come here and play against England and play against France and South Africa, we’re all so privileged because this is the only time for us to play against big nations like this. I’m very proud of the girls and how they performed at this Rugby World Cup.”

Serevi who also added another feather to her cap as captain in the games against South Africa and France expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play on the big stage.

She said: “It’s never easy coming to your first World Cup as an individual and as a team. We thank all our fans for coming up to support us this weekend. We do apologise for the loss but we’re so grateful for all the support – we also thank his excellency the President of Fiji who’s here as well. We appreciate his support, coming all the way out to support the girls. We’re beyond grateful for the opportunity.”

Both Seruvakula and Serevi also believe that the Fijiana will get better with more game time against top nations.

“For us, the most Tests any of Fiji’s girls have played is 11. I’ve been fighting for more games, and I’m thankful to World Rugby for giving us games this year against Fiji, against the Wallaroos, and against Canada. We need to go to big tournaments and play in big tournaments that can prepare us well in going to the next Rugby World Cup.

“These girls, they deserve to be playing in the Rugby World Cup. But it’s different coming to the World Cup, the tests that we played – there’s not enough games for us. That’s not an excuse. Like I said before, it’s a very big learning. There’s a very big margin between South Pacific teams and top nations – they play more tests than us.”

Serevi envisions great things for the Fijiana with more games looking ahead to a better outing at the RWC2025.

“You’ll be seeing more of Fijiana – we’re still coming up the ladder. The talent and skillset we have as a team right now, I know that moving forward we’ll have that, and we also need a lot more games than we’ve had coming into the World Cup. We’re already looking forward to the next World Cup and I believe that we can go further and get into the quarter-finals and make it further than we did this year.”

The side’s lone win over South Africa also ensured the Fijiana avoid a wooden spoon finish, bowing out of the event as the third-place finisher in Pool C, ahead of South Africa.

Meanwhile, making their early exit as well from the competition are Japan, and Scotland while the eight teams who have progressed through to the knockout phase, in order of their seedings, are: New Zealand, Canada, England, France, Italy, Australia, USA and Wales.

The Fijiana are expected back in the country at 4.10pm tomorrow.

Photo: WHANGAREI, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 22: Siteri Rasolea of Fiji runs with the ball during the Pool C Rugby World Cup 2021 match between France and Fiji at Northland Events Centre on October 22, 2022, in Whangarei, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

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