World Cup Preview: Fiji v Ireland

Fiji take on Ireland at a sold out Rochdale in a repeat of the qualifying semi-final from the 2008 World Cup.

The Fijians came out on top in that game, winning 30-14 on the Gold Coast, to reach the semi-finals, where they were beaten by Australia.

Ireland were one of the surprise packages in that tournament, losing narrowly to Tonga before beating Samoa.

The game itself carries some significance, given the remarkable link between the hosts and Fiji, which dates back to the 1960s, when Orisi Dawai and Joe Levula travelled 10,000 miles to sign for Rochdale.

The Bati will no doubt be cheered on by a large portion of the sell out crowd at Spotland, for the first World Cup game in the town.

Fiji have three brothers in their squad in the shape of Ashton, Korbin and Tariq Sims, giving a rare opportunity for the trio to line-up in the same team; with Korbin playing his club rugby at Newcastle and the other two at North Queensland.

There are more recognisable faces in former Australia international Petero Civoniceva and Catalan’s former Wakefield centre Daryl Millard.

Championship fans may also recall half-back Aaron Groom, who spent some time with Sheffield after the last World Cup.

He will then be no stranger to Eagles and Ireland coach Mark Aston.

Ireland have a mix of experienced internationals and newcomers to their squad, with NRL pair Apirana Pewhairangi and Rory Kostjasyn set for debuts, together with Canberra prop Brett White and Manly’s James Hasson.

A fifth Aussie-based player, Illawarra Cutters’ Joshua Toole, doesn’t make the 19-man squad for the Fiji game, but it will be interesting to see just how the new faces have integrated in to the squad.

Their run in the 2008 tournament isn’t Ireland‘s only World Cup experience – they reached the quarter-finals in 2000, after defeating Samoa, Scotland and New Zealand Maoris.

The likelihood is that the winner of this game will be the third team from Group A to reach the quarter-finals, with England and Australia the heavy favourites to finish in the top two, and both of these two sides next opponents.

Verdict: Promises to be a real World Cup occasion at Rochdale, and while the hosts will be hoping for a Fiji win, Ireland‘s Super League quality and experience should see them home.

Fiji: Jayson Bukuya (Cronulla), Petero Civoniceva (Redcliffe), Kane Evans (Canterbury), Aaron Groom (North Sydney), Marika Koroibete (Wests), Apisai Koroisau (South Sydney), Daryl Millard (Catalan), Kevin Naiqama (Newcastle), Waisale Ligani Naiqama (Penrith), Alipate Noilea (Collegians), Vitale Junior Roqica (Cronulla), Ashton Sims (North Queensland), Korbin Sims (Newcastle), Tariq Sims (North Queensland), James Storer (Collegians), Akuila Uate (Newcastle), Elani Vunakece (Toulouse), Sisa Ledua Waqa (Melbourne), Semi Radradra Turagasoli Waqavatu (Parramatta).

Ireland: Dave Allen (Widnes) Luke Ambler (Halifax), Bob Beswick (Leigh), Damien Blanch (Catalan), Danny Bridge (Warrington), Ben Currie (Warrington), Liam Finn (Featherstone), Scott Grix (Huddersfield), Kurt Haggerty (Barrow), James Hasson (Manly), Rory Kostjasyn (North Queensland), Stuart Littler (Leigh), James Mendeika (Swinton), Tyrone McCarthy (Warrington), Anthony Mullally (Huddersfield), Eamon O’Carroll (Widnes), Apirana Pewhairangi (Parramatta), Pat Richards (Wigan), Brett White (Canberra).

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