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Page last updated at 15:35 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

World Cup success thrills Fijians

Akuila Uate of Fiji in action against Ireland
Fiji's win over Ireland earned them a place in the World Cup semi-finals

Fiji coach Joe Dakuitoga says rugby league could overtake rugby union as the national sport because of the huge interest generated by the World Cup.

The country's pay-TV network ran out of satellite dishes before the 30-14 play-off win over Ireland which earned Fiji a semi-final against Australia.

"We've been going 16 years and have been looked down on, but after this league's our number one game," he said.

"The game was more important to us to win than Ireland. Everyone's watching."

Reaching the last four of the World Cup guarantees Fiji a windfall of 120,000 prize money, but Dakuitoga said the cash would go to the players rather than being invested in the game back home.

"We asked them to come," he said.

"There is no money in Fiji rugby league so for them to put their hands up and represent Fiji was a big bonus so all the money will be shared amongst the players."

Fiji captain Wes Naiqama, who plays for Newcastle Knights in Australia, said his team were not interested in money.

"Money was never an issue. We all play the game because we're passionate about the game," he said.

Ireland coach Andy Kelly rated Fiji higher than fellow Pacific Islanders Tonga and Samoa, the other teams in his side's pool, and he said they thoroughly deserved their semi-final spot.

"They have some great athletes," he said.

"Overall, they were the most enthusiastic, most athletic and probably the more skilful of the three sides and were probably underestimated in the competition.

"They won't lack any enthusiasm and, if they get the share of the ball they got tonight, they could cause Australia problems.

"But I rather think Australia will deny them that."

see also
World Cup pictures
10 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Kelly proud of players despite defeat
10 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Fiji 30-14 Ireland
10 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Ireland 34-16 Samoa
05 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Kelly proud of 'fantastic' Irish
05 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Tonga 22-20 Ireland
27 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Scotland 18-16 Fiji
05 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
Fiji 42-6 France
01 Nov 08 |  Rugby League

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