Fiji left to rue missed RLWC opportunity

Interim Fiji coach Wise Kativerata is confident his side would be playing in a Rugby League World Cup semi-final with Australia if they had been at full strength for this campaign.

The Bati were pipped at the death in Hull, going down to New Zealand in a 24-18 quarter-final loss on Saturday.

They will be left wondering how different things might have been had they had all their firepower available, as Pacific rivals Samoa and Tonga have been blessed with at this tournament.

The Saifiti twins, Daniel and Jacob, both withdrew their commitment prior to the tournament as did Melbourne-bound Tariq Sims and Parramatta centre Waqa Blake.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard is eligible for Fiji but chose to represent Australia.

"It would be a different story," Kativerata said.

"They (New Zealand) have got experience and that's why they got over the line.

"Most of our players come across from Fiji and are developed in the NRL.

"The Tongan and Samoan boys are born in Australia and New Zealand.

"Ninety per cent of the kids playing today, they are all from back home. The future of Fijian rugby league is much better than any other nation."

The quarter-final defeat ends a run of three straight tournaments where Fiji have reached the last four.

They had to do without head coach Joe Rabele, who has been in hospital for the entire trip with a foot infection.

But the outlook is positive for Fiji ahead of the 2025 tournament in France.

Penrith fullback Sunia Turuva has been a standout in this campaign and Sydney Roosters back-rower Josh Wong looks an impressive prospect.

"Even though we didn't make it to the semi-finals this year there is a lot of progress," said retiring forward Korbin Sims.

"Seeing the calibre of boys that we've got coming through is exciting."