SAINT-ETIENNE: Simon Raiwalui has a unique insight into the contrasting trajectories of Australian and Fijian rugby.
The Fiji coach was an assistant to Wallabies coach Michael Cheika at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and once represented the Australian Schoolboys alongside Test greats Joe Roff and Ben Tune.
Raiwalui has a hulking frame and a razor sharp mind, having done a superb job with Fiji after taking the reins just seven months ago.
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He was proud but calm after the historic 22-15 defeat of the Wallabies on Monday (AEST), the first time the island nation had beaten Australia at a World Cup.
There didn’t appear to be a trace of surprise about the result and Raiwalui was later asked about the differences in resources between the two teams.
“We’ve prepared with what we’ve got the best we can. You maybe don’t get (things like) psychologists but we’ve got other things,” he said.
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“We were able to bring a in reverend who came in to talk about mental well being, being in connection with our religion, being in connection with our people, our game and our campaign being geared to what’s important to us as Fijians.
“So we have those sort of things. Yeah, we always want more resources. But you have to make do with what you have.
“I’ll take more matches over resources, the more matches we get at this level, outside the World Cup. If Fiji can get those tier one matches more regularly, you’ve seen what these boys can do when they get that regular competition.”
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Raiwalui also had some interesting observations about a Wallabies squad that includes seven players with Fijian heritage and plays, in his eyes, a similar style to his own team.
“We have a lot of strike weapons, they have a lot of strike weapons. I knew Australia was going to come at us in the set piece. So we had a real mindset to try and win those battles,” he said.
“I know what the (Australian) media is like. It’s tough because the Wallabies have got a great, young core there that is going to do them well moving into the future.
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“They had a couple of unlucky injuries this week (Taniela Tupou and Will Skelton) that affected their preparation but they’ve got a great squad and I think it’s a squad that needs to be backed into the next (World Cup) cycle. Eddie is very good at what he does.”
To prepare Fiji for the World Cup, Raiwalui took his team to a tiny village on the island of Taveuni to sleep on thin mattresses, eat meals with locals and train on a humble field by the beach.
“It is the biggest moment in Fiji sport and Fiji as a whole,” Fiji lock Temo Mayanavanua said of the Wallabies win.
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