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Fiji are league's band of brothers

Forget the Burgess brothers and the Morris twins, it's Fiji who hold the mantle as the Rugby League World Cup's family nation.
Fiji are league's band of brothers
by AAP

By Ben Horne

SYDNEY, Oct 15 AAP - Forget the Burgess brothers and the Morris twins, it's Fiji who hold the mantle as the Rugby League World Cup's family nation.

The Bati's tight-knit culture was credited for propelling them into the semi-finals of the 2008 World Cup, but as they prepare for another tilt at the titles, it seems Rick Stone's team have taken team "brotherhood" to a new level.

As commentator Ray Warren would describe, Fiji features the brothers' Sims, the brothers' Naiqama and the brothers' Millard in their 24-man squad for their UK assault starting on October 28 against Ireland.

The count of seven siblings will make for a challenging call for broadcasters and certainly takes a little edge off headlines spruiking England's selection of Sam, George and Tom Burgess.

Ashton, Tariq and Korbin Sims will provide the grunt for the Fiji forward pack, while Wes and Kevin Naiqama and Daryl and Ryan Millard will look to spark an exciting backline.

The only other World Cup side that can hold a candle to Fiji in the big brother stakes is Scotland, with Ian and Andrew Henderson, Brett and Callum Phillips and Adam and Jonathan Walker all featuring for the Bravehearts.

During their preparations in `08, the Bati put an emphasis on culture and traditional ways of Fijian life.

Coach Stone has just finished running an extensive camp back in Fiji, and said the prevalence of blood relatives in the squad had only strengthened the bond of his team.

"That's true. The Sims boys, the Millard and Naiqama brothers as well - it's a pretty tight-knit group," said Newcastle Knights assistant, Stone.

"We've got a bit of work to do on the field but off the field they've really bonded well and are enjoying each other's company.

"We try to mix the culture in and spirituality and religion is a big part of their life. Some blokes who haven't experienced a traditional Fiji side of life have enjoyed the exposure."

North Queensland prop Ashton was part of the `08 squad, but Fiji will field a pack to be reckoned with this time around, with his younger brothers Tariq and Korbin two of the brightest forwards coming through in the NRL.

Wes Naiqama is a veteran of Fijian rugby league and after captaining the `08 side, he'll slot back into the vice-captaincy with legendary prop Petero Civoniceva on board for one final hurrah to international rugby league.

Kevin Naiqama was outstanding in Newcastle's semi-final win over Melbourne and looks set to star with the prospect of a regular opportunity on the wing for Penrith next year.

Daryl Millard was an excellent defensive centre for St George Illawarra and Canterbury, but he's gone to another level in the English Super League - starring for Catalans and the Exiles representative team.

Younger brother Ryan, a half or fullback, is one of the real success stories of the Fijian squad, having toiled away in the lower grades for a number of seasons to now realise his dream of representing the Bati at a World Cup.

Millard is firmly in contention to play halfback, with Stone undecided on his halves and hooker.




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