Kiwis urged to avenge 2017 Fiji defeat

Nelson Asofa-Solomona says New Zealand will be out to avenge the humiliation of their quarter-final defeat in 2017 when they meet Fiji in Hull on Saturday night for a place in the Rugby League World Cup semi-finals.

Fiji shocked the Kiwis 4-2 in Wellington a week after the host nation had been surprisingly beaten by Tonga in the group stages and the loss still hurts for the eight survivors of the 2017 squad.

"It was very disappointing," said Asofa-Solomona. "Being a Wellingtonian and playing in Wellington for the first time and not getting the win was very disappointing, to let our country down.

"Every time you lose big games like that, especially internationals, it always hurts. We have an opportunity this week to rectify that.

"We respect Fiji and we're not looking past them. We know they have a lot of pride in their jersey and we have a lot of pride in our jersey so you're going to see a physical game on Saturday."

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jordan Rapana, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Joseph Tapine and Isaac Liu are the other survivors from that costly defeat while Peta Hiku and Kenny Bromwich were also involved in the disastrous campaign which cost coach David Kidwell his job.

Prop Waerea-Hargreves will miss the rematch after being handed a one-match ban for a high tackle on Dan Norman in last Friday night's win over Ireland but winger Watene-Zelezniak is back in the mix after sitting out the final group game.

Captain Kevin Naiqama, Viliame Kikau, Api Koroisau, Tui Kamikamica and Ben Nakubuwai are the five survivors from the victorious Fiji team that went on to lose to Australia in the semi-finals.

Former Wigan coach Michael Maguire succeeded Kidwell and insists the Fiji loss has not been talked about by the players in the build-up to Saturday's game.

"We're a completely different team," he said. "I don't know what happened back then, I haven't really looked into it.

"All I'm concerned about is this weekend. We've been growing since we came together and especially since we've been in camp here. The boys have really built over the last four or five weeks."

Maguire has been encouraged by his team's progress but is aware there is room for improvement, particularly in the goalkicking department.

"I'm pretty comfortable with the defence, we just need to tidy up a few things with our attack," said Maguire, who confirmed Rapana will continue as first-choice marksman despite missing with three of his five attempts at goal in the win over Ireland.

Meanwhile, Maguire says if his side get past Fiji, Waerea-Hargreaves will get the chance to push for a semi-final place despite being sin-binned on his return from a three-match ban.

"He's got to show me that through his training," he said. "We've had a conversation. He's jumped in and got behind everyone this week."