Fiji are bracing themselves for a “once in a lifetime” opportunity after being confirmed as one of eight teams taking part in the Nations Cup rugby competition in November.
The Flying Fijians will take on France, Italy and Scotland in Group A, with England, Ireland, Wales and Georgia to contest Group B.
The final round will be a series of crossover matches against the team with the equivalent placing in the opposite pool.
Fiji have not played four consecutive tests against tier one countries in the professional era and CEO, John O’Connor, said their participation would be a historic milestone.
“It will be a challenge for the boys but you know we have been crying over [wanting] more test matches against tier one for so long,” he said.
“This is an opportunity for us now to put our hands up and show we can be competitive.”
With the 2020 Pacific Nations Cup cancelled because of Covid-19, O’Connor said they were also trying to arrange a warm-up match in Europe before their tournament opener against France on 15 November.
Despite a disjointed rugby season, he remained confident Flying Fijians coach, Vern Cotter, would be able to select a strong squad.
“Most of our players are based in Europe and Vern’s been watching all our local domestic competition.
“He has been impressed with some local players and now they’re making arrangements for them to be able to travel to the Northern Hemisphere,” he said.
“I think the advantage we have is because we are Covid-contained at the moment we are not required to quarantine when we arrive but we know we have to quarantine when we return back to Fiji and likewise to New Zealand.”
Fiji coach Vern Cotter will come against one of his former teams, Scotland, later this year.
It remains unclear how many fans will be able to attend the Nations Cup fixtures, with the UK government opting to limit attendance at ‘test events’ to a max of 1000 for the rest of the month, pending a review.
But O’Connor said the Fiji Rugby Union has managed to negotiate a participation fee with the Six Nations.
“We do not know whether the matches will be played with crowds of without any crowds but we are thankful for the Six Nations for their support in this deal.
“They will be covering all our costs for this tournament and they have been very positive in terms of negotiating a participation fee, keeping in mind there are a lot of uncertainties.”