Flying Fijians Lay Down The Challenge To Wales

If Wales thought their World Cup opener against Fiji looked tricky before the weekend, it now looks a whole lot tougher.

The Fijians are flying after their stunning victory over England at Twickenham which has seen the South Seas Islanders move up to seventh in the World Rugby rankings.

That’s three places higher than Wales who have remained 10th following their most recent game, a heavy defeat to South Africa in their final World Cup warm-up match.

Former Newport forward Simon Raiwalui – now Fiji’s head coach – believes the balance of power in world rugby is shifting fundamentally.

“The gap is closing, which is good for rugby in general,” said Raiwalui.

“It’s been really good to watch the progression of teams who have traditionally struggled. There’s been more of a level playing field in terms of preparation.

“We’ve been together for seven or eight weeks and you see the benefits. It’s going to be the closest World Cup we’ve seen.”

“I wouldn’t say we were comfortable because it was a tough match. But we don’t get to play at Twickenham too often so this was a great honour for us. It’s huge to get this victory and I’m very proud of the boys.”

Georgia – who are also in Wales’ pool – are ranked just one spot behind Wales in 11th.

World Cup hosts France have also risen to third after their comfortable victory over Australia, who are back in ninth, one place above Wales.

The Wales-Fiji clash in Bordeaux on September 10 will be one of the final Test appearances for Dan Biggar.

The 33-year-old outside-half has announced that he will retire from international rugby after the World Cup – in order not to become an absent dad.

Biggar is due to compete in his third tournament but confirmed he plans to call time on his stellar international career, having made 109 appearances since his Wales debut in 2008.

The former Ospreys and Northampton star plans to keep playing for Toulon in France, but won’t be returning to Wales for the 2024 Six Nations in order to continue his Test career.

In his newspaper column in the Mail on Sunday, he said: “I have a young family in France now and I don’t think it’s fair for me to keep getting on a flight every autumn, summer and Six Nations.

“My eldest, James, is at an age where he has school shows and sports days and I don’t want to miss those moments.

“Playing 10 for Wales takes its toll. I had a conversation about this the other day with my wife, Alex. Everyone’s got an opinion and there’s always someone better than you.

“There have been plenty of moments when I’ve copped it and I’m proud of how long I’ve lasted.”

Biggar joins a long list of Welsh internationals who have decided to bow out from Test rugby in 2023.

Ahead of the World Cup, lock Alun Wyn Jones, flankers Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi and scrum-half Rhys Webb all hung up their Test boots, with Navidi retiring from professional rugby as well.