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Flying Fiji raises hopes at the Rugby World Cup. Eyes now turned towards the great Ireland-South Africa confrontation

Every World Cup needs an underdog story. This is not the first time that the island of Fiji, in the Pacific, has warmed hearts…

Every World Cup needs an underdog story. This is not the first time that Fiji, a Pacific island, has warmed hearts during rugby’s flagship competition.

The Flying Fijians, as they are known, beat two-time champions Australia on Sunday for the first time in 69 years and for the first time at the Rugby World Cup, sending a wave of joy through a tournament that saw most of the underdogs getting a predictable result. hammering of the big dogs in the first week and some action in France.

Defending champions South Africa beat Romania 76-0 on Sunday, while New Zealand beat Namibia 71-3 on Friday night.

But Fiji’s uplifting second weekend result – which was actually half-expected given the islanders’ recent rise – at least keeps the top teams on their toes and everyone believes there’s still a chance.


The Fijians have always been everyone’s favorites at the Rugby World Cup because of their way of playing, an inventive and improvisational, come-from-anywhere attacking philosophy.

This year, Fiji also appears better prepared than ever. It showed in the way their defense was a brick wall in holding off Australia 22-15, although there was still time to show off a bit when center Josua Tuisova went in for a diving catch flying for Fiji’s only test. This and Fiji’s victory were greeted enthusiastically by supporters at Saint-Etienne and across the rugby world.

The spirit of the Fiji team has always been one of the best stories in the game given that they do not have the resources of rugby powerhouses like Australia, New Zealand and other neighboring countries . This was enhanced this year by a back-to-basics preparation camp, when the team traveled to a small village on the outer island of Taveuni to sleep on thin mattresses, eat meals with local villagers and practice on sandy ground at the edge of the field. beach.

It was a huge success with the Fijian players, who are now doing well in France while renewing their hopes in the quarter-finals.

“This is the biggest moment for Fijian sport and Fiji as a whole,” said striker Temo Mayanavanua. He may not be exaggerating considering that a recent survey ranked Fiji higher than New Zealand and South Africa – both three-time champions – on a list of countries “obsessed with rugby “.


Namibia and Romania came close to an upset and were defeated by New Zealand and South Africa respectively. These lopsided matches are more common in the early stages of the Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand scored 11 tries in their 71-3 victory over the Namibians, putting rugby’s most famous team back on track after losing to France in the opening match and heading into a week of introspection. South Africa went one better with 12 tries in their 76-0 defeat of Romania, who conceded 158 points in two ultra-difficult matches against number one Ireland and number 2 South Africa .

It is important to note that smaller rugby teams often view short-term pain as important to long-term gain, claiming that matches against the best at the Rugby World Cup are the only way to improve , even if it hurts right now.


While the New Zealand All Blacks were merciless in pummeling Namibia on the field, rugby’s famous tradition of camaraderie between opposing players was also on display after Namibian center Le Roux Malan suffered a horrific fracture and dislocation of the right ankle.

New Zealand players sent him an All Blacks jersey signed by all the players as a get well and New Zealand center Anton Lienert-Brown visited Malan in the hospital. The gesture of the jersey was highly praised by Namibian coach Allister Coetzee.


Welsh winger Louis Rees Zammit delivered the strangest story of the weekend after revealing he idolized soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and even dressed like him, down to wearing underwear. Ronaldo brand clothing. This would explain why Rees Zammit celebrated his try against the Portugal rugby team with his own version of the famous “siuu!” » by Ronaldo. jump and earth celebration. “I thought why not do his celebration too,” Rees Zammit said.

Wales won 28-8, but the Portuguese provided another stirring underdog display in defeat in their first World Cup match in 16 years.


This week, all eyes are on Ireland against South Africa on Saturday, rugby’s in-form team against the reigning World Cup champions. It’s a tantalizing encounter between the world’s two best in an early pool match. Ireland are arguably the most impressive team at this Rugby World Cup, an unfamiliar status for the Irish, who have often disappointed and have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals.

This one seems different considering Ireland are on a 15-game winning streak and have been No. 1 for over a year.

At the other end of the spectrum, Georgia and Portugal meet on the same day, a clash of minnows comparable to the clash of the titans of Ireland and South Africa. But Portugal could win their first Rugby World Cup match. Could Ronaldo be watching?


AP Rugby World Cup:

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