20 Nov 2020

Fiji handed tough draw for 2021 Rugby World Cup

12:43 pm on 20 November 2020

The Fiji women's rugby team face a daunting World Cup debut after being drawn to play England, France and South Africa in pool play next year.

The Fijiana confirmed their first Rugby World Cup appearance after winning the Oceania Championship 12 months ago.

Fiji have qualified for their first ever Rugby World Cup.

Fiji have qualified for their first ever Rugby World Cup. Photo: Oceania Rugby

The draw was made in Auckland this morning with the Fijiana in Pool C alongside 2014 world champions England, who finished runners up to New Zealand three years ago, 2017 bronze medallists France and African winners South Africa.

Coach Senirusi Seruvakula said it was a tough draw but one they were looking forward to.

"Especially going into the World Cup they're all top teams and we don't underestimate any team and you play every game as like a final," he said.

"For us first year is very historic for us to be in the World Cup and we accepted any team that is being pooled with us."

At 22nd in the world, the Fijiana are the lowest ranked of the nine countries so far confirmed for next year's tournament in New Zealand.

But Senirusi Seruvakula insisted his team was up for the challenge.

"I was happy to be pooled together with those three teams. I've been watching all their games because they've been playing, England and France, for the last couple of weeks, and South Africa so it just showed me we've got a chance.

"We've got an opportunity to showcase our talent and especially we are underdogs in this tournament."

Former All Black Dan Carter displays Fiji's ball during the 2021 Rugby World Cup draw.

Former All Black Dan Carter displays Fiji's ball during the 2021 Rugby World Cup draw. Photo: World Rugby

England retained their Six Nations title earlier this month and are currently the top-ranked side in the world, while France have finished third in six of the eight World Cup tournaments.

That leaves South Africa, the Fijiana's best chance of securing a maiden win.

"I've been watching them on the video and a couple of their games and I believe we can match them," explained Seruvakula, who was appointed Fijiana head coach in October through until the end of the World Cup.

The draw for the Rugby World Cup 2021.

The draw for the Rugby World Cup 2021. Photo: World Rugby

The former Fijian Drua and Fiji Warriors mentor said interest in the women's game was growing.

"A couple of years ago no one wanted to watch the Fijian girls play but starting from last year qualifying into the World Cup and watching the local competition here," he said.

"The national competition they had a final on Saturday - a huge number come in and watch the talent we have in the girls."

180 players will take part in the Fiji women's ten-a-side national championship in Tavua on Saturday, while Senirusi Seruvakula said talks are also ongoing about a potential test match against the Australian Wallaroos in the new year.

Meanwhile hosts and defending champions New Zealand have been drawn in Pool A for next year's World Cup, alongside Australia, Wales and the winner of the Final Qualification Tournament, which includes Samoa.

Samoa and Fiji women pack a scrum in the Oceania Championship

Samoa could yet join Fiji at the 2021 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Oceania Rugby

Canada and the United States are paired in Pool B alongside the winners of the European and Asian Championships, which are still to take place.