June 28,2014(ISN) – Fiji has qualified for Rugby World Cup 2015 after defeating Cook Islands 108-6 in the decisive Oceania qualifier in Lautoka on Saturday.

Fiji join hosts England, Australia, Wales and the yet to be determined Repechage winner in Pool A, and will have the honour of playing England at Twickenham in the opening match of the tournament on 18 September.

With the qualifier coinciding with the global Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour, excitement was at fever pitch for the match, which Fiji were firm favourites to win.

Surprisingly, the Cook Islands led 6-5 after nearly half an hour of play. Fiji full back Metuisela Talebula had crossed for a very early try after a minute but Cooks replied with some determined play and pressure in the Fiji 22 that led to two penalty goals from the boot of fly half Sam Vaevae.

At that point the Cooks were giving as good as they got and led by a back row of Kima Iosua, Nick Connal and Steve Stephano tackled and pressured Fiji into mistake after mistake. Fiji did have the upper hand in the scrum and lineouts but appeared over-eager with ball in hand.

However on the half hour mark Fiji eventually found a way through the dogged defence with two pieces of terrific counter attack from their own half. Crusaders centre Nemani Nadolo led the way by breaking midfield tackles and finding space and scrum half Nemla Kenatale and then centre Asaeli Tikoirotuma both crossed under the posts within minutes of each other.

Nadolo then crossed himself after some slick handling from his teammates followed by powerful wing Watisoni Votu as Fiji found gaps in the tiring Cooks defensive line. In the space of 10 minutes four tries had turned the game and Fiji took a 29-6 lead into the interval.

Unfortunately for the brave Cook Islands the second half became one-way traffic and Fiji scored a further 12 tries and 79 points. Nadolo added two tries to give him a hat-trick in a fine all round display that included three conversions. His teammates, fullback Talebula, replacement scrum half Nikola Matawalu and replacement three-quarters Adriu Delai and Timoci Nagusa scored a brace of tries each.

Among the onslaught fly half Jonetani Ralulu found time to slot a dropped goal to add to his game tally of seven conversions. There was also a very popular try for Test debutant Leroy Atalifo who came on as a replacement prop in the second half.


IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “I would like to congratulate Fiji for becoming the latest team to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. Their reward is to take a deserved place on Rugby’s biggest stage and the honour of playing in the opening match on September 18 against hosts England.”