RLWC Pool D: Fiji Bati Chase a Third Consecutive Semifinals Appearance

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2017 Pacific Tests Invitational
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 06: Fijian players stand for the national anthem during the 2017 Pacific Test Invitational match between Tonga and Fiji at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on May 6, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

The 2017 Rugby League World Cup is only days away and all teams are raring to go. Pool D is a very exciting one, with underdogs Italy and United States alongside the Fijians.

While Fiji Bati chase a third consecutive semifinals appearance, they will also hold the local support. And even with the promise of Italy and the US team, the South Seas team appears favourite–although, the three teams will play an ‘Inter-Pool’ game against a Pool C opponent, to complete their third pool match.

Fiji Bati reached the Cup semifinals in 2008 and 2013. However, they have been hindered with injuries and withdrawals by some key players [as have others]. Italy has named a very good side too, with Terry Campese and James Tedesco in the mix. The United States lack star players but that won’t deter them from ‘giving it their all’.

In 2018, and with the eyes of the league world on them, how teams fare in the pool stages is critical. So Pool D is just as important as any.

Fiji Bati Chase a Third Consecutive Semifinals Appearance

The Fijians do not always play to expectations going into the tournament but they somehow turn up to defy the odds. They might not have the experience of fellow islanders like Tonga and Toa Samoa but they turn up when it matters the most. Most rugby league pundits have counted them out but the Bati players remain optimistic of their chances.

Italy and Wales will test them out in pool play which will be good going into the playoffs. The Americans bring a certain mystery to their campaign which can be good for them. Here is a breakdown of Pool D.

Fiji

Moniker: Bati | First Test: 1992 – Fiji 18 Samoa 32 (Apia, Samoa)

Best World Cup Result: Semi-Finals (2008, 2013)

Head coach: Mick Potter

Wests Tigers’ Kevin Naiqama will lead an unpredictable Fijian side that includes Jarryd Hayne and Ashton Sims. The Sims Brothers, Aston and Korbin bring power to the forwards that include Api Koroisau and Kane Evans. There is plenty firepower in the wings, for the Bati side. However, their halves combinations are their biggest weakness.

The Fijian side is mainly made up of overseas-based players with two local boys from the Nabua Broncos side. Local boys Etuate Bola and Pio Seci were overwhelmed when their names were called out after their trial match in Suva.

of course, the spotlight will fall on Jarryd Hayne. He returns, after featuring for the Fiji Bati in 2008. He was a standout in that tournament, along with Akuila Uate, They both return for their third World Cup.

With the experience of Hayne, Ashton Sims, Uate and Kevin Naiqama, the Bati side will be aiming for a third semifinals appearance.

Fiji’s Main Enforcers

Ashton and Korbin Sims are the enforcers together with Junior Roqica, Eloni Vunakece and Kane Evans. They will lay the platform for the quick backline to turn into points. Disappointing against the Kangaroos and Kumuls at home but they will be raring to go, come the World Cup

Game Changers: With a blink of an eye, the mighty South Sea Islanders can pounce on your mistake and turn it into points. Api Koroisau and Jarryd Hayne are the big game changers in the side. Keep an eye for local boy Pio Seci in the centers.

Match winners: We don’t have to look further then NRL’s Joint Top Try Scorer of the season Suliasi Vunivalu to be their match winner. His explosive bust and eye for the tryline complimented by the support of Aku Uate and Naiqama, they can be deadly on song.

 

Fiji RLWC fixtures:

  • 28/10/2017 – Fiji v USA (Townsville)
  • 05/11/2017 – Fiji v Wales (Townsville)
  • 10/11/2017 – Fiji v Italy (Canberra)

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Italy

Moniker: Azzurri | First Test: 1951 – Italy 17 France 29 (Cahors, France)

Best World Cup Results: Group stages (2013)

Head coach: Cameron Ciraldo

The Italians like the Lebanese will be unpredictable. They can turn up and upset teams if they stuck to the basics of rugby league. Not many big stars in the side which could be a blessing in disguise. Terry Campese, captain Mark Minichello, Nathan Brown and James Tedesco bring experience to the squad. Former Italian Rugby international Mirco Bergamasco will be their biggest threat as he is well experienced when it comes to defying the odds.

Italy’s Main Enforcers

Daniel Alvaro and Mirco Bergamasco will be their enforcers. Paul Vaughan and Joel Rithmuller add depth and experience that will put their pool opponents to task.

Game changers: Terry Campese has always been consistent with his footy and he can raise to the occasion for the Azzurri together with captain Mark Minichello and Nathan Brown.

Match winner: None other than James Tedesco will be their match winner. He is consistent with good sound judgment. He will be very hard to stop, once on the roll but will need good balls from the forwards.

 

Italy squad:

Daniel Alvaro (Parramatta Eels), Mirco Bergamasco (Saluzzo Roosters), Nathan Brown (Parramatta Eels), Christophe Calegari (Palau XIII Broncos), Terry Campese (Queenbean Blues), Justin Castellaro (Northern Pride), Chris Centrone (Wyong Roos), Geole Cellurino (Saluzzo Roosters/Tully Tigers), Mason Cerutto (Penrith Panthers), Ryan Ghietti (Northern Pride), Gavin Hiscox (Central QLD Capras), Jack Johns (Newcastle Knights), Richard Lepori (Oldham Roughyeds), Josh Mantellato (Wyong Roos), Mark Minichello © (Hull FC), Nathan Milone (Wests Tigers), Joel Rithmuller (Northern Pride), Brendan Santi (Sydney Roosters/Wyong Roos), James Tedesco (v/c) (West Tigers), Joel Tramontana (Canterbury Bulldogs), Paul Vaughan (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jayden Walker (Cronulla Sharks), Colin Wilkie (Northern Pride), Shannon Wakeman (Huddersfield Giants)

Azzurri RLWC Fixtures:

  • 29/10/2017 – Italy v Ireland (Cairns)
  • 05/11/2017 – Italy v USA (Townsville)
  • 10/11/2017 – Italy v Fiji (Canberra)

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United States of America

Moniker: Hawks | First Test: January, 1954 – France 31 USA O (Toulouse, France)

Best World Cup Result: Quarter-Finals (2013)

Head coach: Brian McDermott

The Americans have a tough task of facing two Pacific giants in Pool play. Mark Offerdahl leads a relatively young side with the withdrawal of the Paulo brothers. However, as are other American teams in any sport, they cannot be underestimated. They will put on a very brave fight.

US Hawks’ Main Enforcers

Mark Offerdahl and Eddy Pettybourne are their enforcers laying the platform for the youngsters.

Game changers: The experience of playing in the NRL will come in handy here for Brett Faraimo and Junior Vaivai.

Match winners: Without star players it will be a team effort from the Americans to defy the odds.

USA squad:

Jonathan Taylor Alley (Central Florida Warriors), Ryan Burroughs (Toronto Wolfpack), Charles ‘CJ’ Cortalano (White Plains Wombats), Joseph Eichner (Toronto Wolfpack), Bureta Faraimo (NZ Warriors), Gabriel Farley (Philadelphia Fight), Kristian Freed (White Plains Wombats), Daniel Howard (Wentworthville Magpies), Stephen Howard (Mounties), Martwain Johnston (Delaware Black Foxes), Andrew Kneisly (Philadelphia Fight), Corey Makelim (Mounties), Fotukava ‘Hiko’ Malu (Atlanta Rhinos), David Marando (Belrose Eagles), Nicholsa Newlin (Atlanta Rhinos), Mark Offerdahl © (London Broncos), Edward Pettybourne (Tweed Heads Seagulls), Joshua Rice (New York Knights), Matthew Shipway (South Newcastle), Samuel Tochtermann-Talbott (Tweed Heads Seagulls), David Ulch (Tampa Mayhem), Toaialo Junior Vaivai (Illawarra Westes Devils), Matthew Walsh (White Plains Wombats).

Hawks RLWC fixtures:

  • 28/10/2017 – USA v Fiji (Townsville)
  • 05/11/2017 – USA v Italy (Townsville)
  • 12/11/2017 – USA v PNG (Port Moresby)

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Can the Fiji Bati make their Third Consecutive World Cup semifinals appearance?

They have a good side but have struggled in preparation. Their first outing will speak volumes on how they will finish. The Italians and Wales [inter-pool game] will challenge them in Pool play.

But if the ‘Hayne Plane’ gets going, with Vunivalu flying down the sidelines, then they will be ruthless in RLWC Pool D.

 

Enjoy our other RLWC Pool evaluations here.

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