Civoniceva blown away by Rochdale reception

Fiji captain Petero Civoniceva says they have been blown away by the reception they have received in Rochdale for the World Cup.

The Bati delivered in front of a sell-out crowd at Spotland on Monday night, beating Ireland 32-14 to all but secure a spot in the quarter-finals.

They are based in the town for the duration of the tournament, thanks in part to the unique connection between Fiji and Rochdale, that dates back to the 1960s.

Civoniceva said: “We have just been blown away by the reception we received since we’ve been here. 

“We have learnt about the history we have here and it’s something to be proud of. When we went to city hall, it was pretty emotional.”

Two Fijians – Orsi Dawai and Joe Levula – were brought to Rochdale by chairman Arthur Walker after he spotted them playing rugby union during a trip to Fiji while in Australia with the Great Britain.

They became two of the first people to leave the country after anti-emigration laws were repealed, and an unlikely relationship was born.

Now, the Fijian community in Rochdale is the second largest in the UK, after London.

Many were out in force at Spotland, where the 8872 attendance made it a ground record for a rugby league match.

The emotion is likely to continue for Civoniceva, who will play against Australia in St Helens on Saturday, having previously won a record-breaking 45 caps for the Kangaroos.

He added: “Honestly, I haven’t really thought about it too much, my focus is here with the boys as I said we will learn from the things we did good tonight, and obviously there is a lot of things to be worked on, so that is what my focus is on.”

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