Rugby League - Fiji to keep faith against Aussies

Logic says Fiji do not have a prayer against Australia in Saturday's World Cup semi-final but the Bati have a faith that transcends all pre-ordained thinking.

PA Sport
Rugby League - Fiji to keep faith against Aussies

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The England and Fiji teams get together to pray at the end of their World Cup clash

While their Pacific Island rivals warm up for matches with their versions of the Haka, the Fijiians turn to song with a pre-game hymn and conclude it with a team prayer in the middle of the pitch.

The unusual combination has thrilled crowds from Rochdale to Hull but the Bati's musical turn is not just for show.

"I'm not sure if many people know but we're into Christian devotion every morning and every night as a team," said Daryl Millard, who has appeared in their last three matches.

"Fiji is a very Christian country and I think the Fijiian supporters in Fiji really appreciate that we pay homage to The Lord and that gives us strength and unity as a team."

Millard, the former Wakefield centre who now plays for Catalan Dragons, says every member of the Fijiian squad buys into the concept, regardless of their own religious beliefs, and reckons other teams could benefit from their practices.

"Even if you weren't Christian, if you were Muslim and still came to our devotion, the messages the pastor gives to us are for everyday life and in the end they are all bringing us closer together and keeping us focused," he said.

"Being a long time away from home, living in hotels, can be distracting sometimes so it's a really good thing we've got in the Fiji camp.

"Maybe some professional teams can come and look at it. There would definitely be some advantages from just seeing the lift we get from it."

The Fijiians have made a habit of inviting their opponents into their circle at the end of each World Cup game to join with them in prayer and Millard says the tourists have been delighted the responses.

"On the field it's an aggressive and combative game," Millard said. "It can be seen that we don't like each other but after the game we come together and give thanks for our lives and being together and being given an opportunity to play rugby league in the World Cup."

There are sure to be smiles all round at the end of Saturday's semi-final double-header at Wembley but for 80 minutes the Fijiians will be fiercely competitive.

Beaten 52-0 by the Kangaroos in the 2008 semi-final in Sydney, Fiji gave the tournament favourites did better in their group game in St Helens earlier this month, eventually going down 34-2, and Millard believes they can get even closer this time, especially if there is a dry track.

"I'd like to think we've learned some stuff from the last time we played them," said Millard, who is one of six survivors from the 2008 semi-final. "It was a very cold and wet night so maybe, if the conditions are different, it might be a different game.

"We're not going to shirk away from the game. We'll go in there confident that we can play a good brand of footie and you never know what happens on the night."

Millard, who has been playing in Super League since 2010, is relishing the opportunity to finally run out at Wembley.

"It's awesome," he said, "especially the history of the place. It's something special.

"I think we'll probably treasure it after the tournament, that we got an opportunity to play at Wembley against Australia in a World Cup semi-final."

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