Fiji's tortoise and hare can make asses out of the Scots

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The Independent Online

Scotland, made to look so pedestrian against France, face a combination of the hare and the slimmed-down tortoise when they play Fiji here tomorrow in the match which decides who will finish runner-up to France in Pool B and qualify for the quarter-finals.

Reappearing on the wing for the Fijians is a player regarded as one of the fastest in the game, Rupeni Caucaunibuca. He will be up against Simon Danielli, which should just about get the alphabet covered.

Caucaunibuca received a two-week ban after punching the flanker Olivier Magne in Fiji's opening game against France and then delivered just about the most contrite statement uttered in the history of rugby union: "I wish the judiciary and everybody involved with the World Cup to know how sorry I am for what occurred on the field in the game against France. I come from a remote village where I am considered an example for the rest of our people who will feel very let down by what has occurred. I feel I have let down the whole of Fiji and particularly my team. I got involved because I thought one of my team-mates was helpless and was going to be hurt. I acted instinctively and did not mean to cause any harm. When the fight continued I reacted wrongly and should not have struck the French player. I apologise to him and want him to know that I am very pleased that he has not suffered any serious injury.''

Martin Leslie, the Scotland flanker who pleaded not guilty to kneeing the United States player Jason Keyter in the head, this week had a 12-week ban reduced to eight weeks. He did not feel the need to publicly apologise to his team-mates.

Caucaunibuca missed Fiji's games against the United States, which they won by a point, and Japan, which was negotiated more comfortably. It was in the impressive victory over the latter that Fiji demonstrated what they are capable of. The Japanese have had very little to show from this tournament, despite putting their heart and soul into it, and Fiji's success against them underlines the threat to Scotland.

The man who will be leading the Fijians' pre-match war dance, the Cibi, against the Scots is Joeli Veitayaki. Once a performer for Ulster, Veitayaki plays for Auckland in New Zealand's national provincial championship and is returning to international rugby after a three-year absence and a crash diet that would make the Atkins regime look like small beer.

"I was playing just social and club rugby,'' the prop said. "But funnily enough I got called back to play in this World Cup. They said if I lost some weight and could handle the training then I could return, so I did just that. At Christmas I was up to 160kg (25st 2lb) but at the moment I am around 137 to 138kg.

"I've got a job to do to help the team and I don't look at all that stuff about me being the biggest man in the World Cup," Veitayaki added. "You have to back yourself against Scotland. If you don't, you can't win the game. We've got a young team but there are a few old fellas in the side and it's been an experience for us. After losing the first game we had to come back. Now it's up to us. The game against Scotland is like our final. We haven't put everything together yet but we're working towards it."

With the exception of Veitayaki, the Fijians are wearing the modern, tight jerseys which have become the vogue. "I don't know whose idea it was to bring in those kind of shirts,'' he said. "I would rather stick to the old ones. You can stretch those but you can't stretch the modern ones and you look funny in them.'' Whatever jersey "Joe" is wearing, you can guarantee in tomorrow's all-or-nothing game that nobody will be laughing.