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Fiji qualify for World Cup

Fiji will play in their first World Cup in New Zealand in 2021.

It has been quite a month for Fijian women's rugby. Three weeks after their sevens team qualified for the Olympics, the fifteens team today (30th November) qualified the 2021 World Cup.

This will be the first time Fiji will have played at the tournament. The Pacific island team at the World Cup up to 2013 had always been Samoa, essentially because up until then there was no-one else.

Fiji reformed their women's fifteens team in 2017 in time to compete for a place at the World Cup in Ireland. When Samoa were excluded from the qualifier, Fiji beat Papua New Guinea - but that time around had to face a second round of qualification in against Japan and Hong Kong, and the unexperienced team were well beaten.

This time around there is no second phase and having beaten Samoa twice in the qualification tournament, Fiji are going to the World Cup.

Samoa will also get a second chance. Early next year they will meet the winner of a game between Tonga and Papua New Guinea for a place in a "repecharge" tournament that will decide the 12th and final place at the World Cup.

Before today's final, Fiji had beaten Samoa 26-7 in the group phase. However, Samoa knew that they had already qualified for the final before that game. Today was different and Fiji expected them to come back at them.

In preparation Fiji made changes with basketball international Ada Dansey starting at hooker while former 7s international Pricisilla Siata started on the wing. In practice Fiji dominated the game, leading 24-8 at halftime before extending their lead in the second half to win 41-13. Aloesi Nakoci scored twice while Laveni Cavuru, Priscilla Siata and Lavenia Tinai scored a try each for the Fijiana.

The dominance of Fijian rugby in the islands was demonstrated in the previous game when their "A" team beat Papua New Guinea 40-22, but the gap between the islands and the rest of the rugby world is significant.

They will need a chance to compete against teams from outside the region over the next year if they are going to be able to prepare for what they will be up against in New Zealand in barely more than a year.

They have only ever previously played full tests against Japan and Hong Kong, and lost all of the games, while in this tournament they were beaten 53-0 by a New Zealand development XV. Remembering New Zealand put 121 points on Hong Kong in 2017, Fiji will need a lot of support if they are going to be competitive.

Fiji: 1 Nioni Nai; 2 Ada Dansey; 3 Makereta Tunidau; 4 Laisa Taga; 5 Torika Semo; 6 Lavenia Tinai; 7 Ema Adivitaloga; 8 Sereima Leweniqila [C]; 9 Raijeli Uluinayau; 10 Lavena Cavuru; 11 Pricilla Siata; 12 Rusila Nagasau [C]; 13 Mela Matanatabu; 14 Elenoa Adinaimata; 15 Aloesi Nakoci
Reserves: Vika Matarugu, Lailanie Burness, Sainimere Naleweniikataga, Vasiti Dominiko, Joma Rubuti, Rusila Tamoi, Mereani Moceituba, Seini Raoma

Samoa: 1 Marilyn Live; 2 Margaret Vaiouga; 3 Elieta Taito; 4 Jacinta Ausai; 5 Mary Lee Sa'u; 6 Easter Savelio; 7 Masuisuimatamaalii Pauaraisa; 8 Nina Foaese [C]; 9 Jhana Magele; 10 Bella Milo; 11 Saelua Leaula; 12 Billy Jean Ale; 13 Luisa Gago; 14 Apaau Mailau; 15 Sieni Mose
Reserves: Hope Sa'u, Aigaevalu Timani, Cynthia Apineru, Pea Asiasiaa, TuiAla Too, Josephine Falesita, Linda Rafia, Anna Helen Vaotuua