15 May 2019

Sport: Flying Fijians to begin World Cup prep against Māori All Blacks

7:57 am on 15 May 2019

The Flying Fijians will kick off their Rugby World Cup preparations with two games against the Māori All Blacks.

The ninth-ranked Fijians, who stunned France in Paris six months ago, will host the Māori in Suva on July 13 with the return match in Rotorua a week later.

Rieko Ioane scored a try during the Maori All Blacks victory over Fiji in 2015.

Rieko Ioane scored a try during the Maori All Blacks victory over Fiji in 2015. Photo: ZoomFiji / PHOTOSPORT

Fiji Rugby chief executive John O'Connor was delighted to secure two competitive mid-year games, which he said isn't always easy to achieve for the Pacific nations.

"It is indeed a timely boost for the Flying Fijians as we will prepare for the Rugby World Cup in Japan later in the year," he said.

"We are on track with our preparations and no doubt the Maori All Blacks visit will be a memorable one for the team itself and the fans here."

Fiji have played 29 matches against the Māori All Blacks dating back to 1938. The inaugural encounter finished in a 3-3 draw, while the last of Fiji's seven wins came in 1957.

The teams also clashed in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup, with Rieko Ioane and Damian McKenzie both finding the tryline as the Maori prevailed 27-26 in Suva.

Head coach John McKee said the two matches kick-start a busy period leading up to Fiji's Rugby World Cup opener against Australia in Sapporo on 21 September.

"The good thing is that we've got a lot of players playing in top clubs in Europe and playing really well so just hoping that they get through their seasons unscathed and come back to us after a short break fresh and uninjured," he said.

"Then we will assemble in early July, firstly for the New Zealand Māori who we play in Suva on the 13 July then we play then in Rotorua...so that kicks off our campaign and leads into the Pacific Nations Cup."

Fiji coach John McKee.

Fiji coach John McKee. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Fiji begin their PNC title defence a week later against Japan in Kamaishi - the same venue where they will take on Uruguay at the World Cup - and host Canada and Manu Samoa in Suva on consecutive weekends before flying out to Japan.

"For us to be successful in Rugby World Cup we need to beat tier one teams (like Australia and Wales), that's for sure, and not forgetting the other teams in our pool, particularly Georgia who will come to the World Cup with very high ambitions as well," he said.

"I think that win in Paris was important for the team. We've had some success in recent years over tier one teams in Fiji but had fallen short overseas so that was a good confidence builder and I think around the collective self belief of what we can achieve when we work very hard."

Fiji kept France scoreless in the second half.

Fiji upset France in Paris in November. Photo: AFP

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