Sport: Pacific teams confident as Rugby World Cup kicks off
Pacific Island nations all targeting knockout rounds as Rugby World Cup kicks off.
After months of preparation, expectation and debate the wait is finally over...
Rugby World Cup kicks off this weekend with all three Pacific teams happy to talk up their chances.
Fiji is taking a positive approach in their so-called "pool of death", while Samoa and Tonga have their sights firmly on the knockout rounds.
Vinnie Wylie reports.
Fiji face a daunting challenge against hosts England in the opening match of the tournament. The bulk of the 82,000 strong Twickenham crowd will be barracking for the home side but coach John McKee says Fiji are embracing the occasion.
JOHN MCKEE: The atmosphere on Friday's going to be tremendous and Twickenham being such an iconic stadium in the world of rugby that's a great motivator for our players. Yes it's England's home and they'll be playing on that but for our players it's a great motivation to play in such a great stadium on such a great occasion.
Australia and Wales also await in Pool A but former captain Deacon Manu says the Flying Fijians back themselves to compete against the best.
DEACON MANU: They've called it the pool of opportunity and there is an opportunity to take teams on - the big guns - [and] you've got four teams there in the top ten in the world. In terms of the preparation from last World Cup they've gone to that next level which was needed after 2011 and I think these guys have developed really well and hopefully come up with a few surprises.
Samoa's 2011 campaign was plagued by off-field dramas. The Samoa Rugby Union has since undergone significant change and signed an historic agreement with the players last month. Former captain Mahonri Schwalger was never selected again after speaking out but says things are now looking up both on and off the field.
MAHONRI SCHWALGER: What happened in the last four years is something good came out of it. The boys are sort of in that right environment and they're enjoying their environment. The management are working really hard and they're willing to do whatever they can [to] provide these guys to prepare them, so it's a good sign and in order for these guys to perform in the best of their ability they've got to make sure that everything runs smoothly. From what I've heard the boys are really happy and things are going well so hopefully they will have a greater tournament this year.
That tournament starts against the United States on Monday morning. The Manu haven't made the knockout rounds for 20 years but Semo Sititi, who played in three World Cups, believes the drought could soon be over.
SEMO SITITI: We've got a massive chance to make the quarter final based on what we have in our pool. South Africa probably is our toughest game but we also have Scotland and Japan. I don't think the boys will underestimate any games but it seems that it's a good chance to make the quarter final.
For the fourth time in the past five World Cups Tongan have been drawn in the same pool as the All Blacks. Argentina also present a major obstacle but the 'Ikale Tahi camp is quietly confident of a first ever quarter-final appearance. They go into Saturday night's opening match against Georgia on a four-match winning streak and former skipper Inoke Afeaki says Tonga has never arrived at a World Cup in better shape.
INOKE AFEAKI: The preparation during the Pacific Nations games against Fiji, Samoa, Japan, Canada and America was pretty good. I would easily say that this is the best-prepared Tongan team I've ever seen and it bodes well. They've all spent time in the gym getting their bodies right. They're playing a pattern of rugby that will work - we will win and lose but the level of competition among the Tongan games and their rivals will be pretty good.
Also this weekend, Ireland take on Canada, South Africa face Japan, France clash with Italy and New Zealand open their title defence against the Pumas.
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