It's not often we get to write a match preview like this.
On Saturday Hornets are proud to welcome the Fiji Bati 'home' to Rochdale. Whilst this may not be the most important game to be played at Spotland in this remarkable year, it is by some way the biggest.
It's a unique relationship that began in the early 60s with the arrival of Orisi Dawai, Joe Levula, Laitia Ravouvou, the mighty Apisai Toga and - Rochdale's adopted sons - Voate Drui and Mike Ratu. To read more about Hornets' Fijian adventure, there's a great article here from the Telegraph
Fast forward to today. Talking of names that make the hairs on your neck rise, Fiji are led by one of the biggest names in World Rugby League - Petero Civoniceva.
|Welcome to Rochdale - Petero starts to think that he |
should've packed a cardigan...
If that's not enough, the Bati pack includes the wrecking ball skills of the Slammin' Sims brothers Ashton, Korbin and Tariq who bring a wealth of heavy-duty NRL experience.
The turbo-charged Fiji backline comes packed with pace in the form of Uate, Koroibete and the Naqaima Brothers Kevin and Waisale. But most impressively to us tragics here at TLCRF80mins, the squad includes former Newtown Jet Kane Evans.
Fiji's potent strike threat was evident in In their final warm-up game before leaving for the UK, as Wests Tigers Fijian rocket Marika Koroibete bagged a hat-trick as the Bati blitzed a Fijian Residents side 50-12 in Nadi.
Fiji coach Rick Stone said the game was "… a good warm up…" - we assume he meant for the challenge posed by Hornets.
“Having a game will give us more confidence and moving us forward, get some combinations and we will be a lot better for the RLWC," said Stone.
“The squad has a lot of experience among them as the majority of the players are based in overseas clubs who have a very good exposure of rugby league such as Petero in the squad will be a real boost the World Cup."
Speaking in the Fiji Times this week (not a paper we get to quote often), Stone pledged the total commitment of his squad to carrying Fiji's colours with pride in the UK: "While we cannot predict the results of the matches, what we can assure the public is when the team go out to battle, they will give their best."
Trust me, Rick, to us Rochdalian Rugby League fans it doesn't get much better.
Bula, Fiji. Welcome home.
Fiji World Cup Squad is:
Peni Botiki (Saru Dragons)
Jayson Bukuya (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
Petero Civoniceva (Redcliffe Dolphins)
Kane Evans (Sydney Roosters)
Aaron Groom (Asquith Magpies)
Ilisavani Jegesa (Nabua Broncos)
Marika Koroibete (Wests Tigers)
Apisai Koroisau (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Daryl Millard (Catalans Dragons)
Ryan Millard (Burwood United)
Kevin Naiqama (Newcastle Knights)
Waisale Naiqama (Penrith Panthers)
Alipate Noilea (Collegians Illawarra)
Tikiko Noke (Lautoka Crushers)
Vitale Junior (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
Ashton Sims (North Queensland Cowboys)
Korbin Sims (Newcastle Knights)
Tariq Sims (North Queensland Cowboys)
James Storer (Collegians Illawarra)
Kaliova Nauqe (Fassifern Queensland)
Akuila Uate (Newcastle Knights)
Eloni Tui Michael Vunakece (Wyong Roos)
Sisa Waqa (Melbourne Storm)
Semi Radradra Turagasoli Waqavatu (Parramatta Eels)