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Kevin Naiqama sings the Fiji national anthem ahead of last year's Pacific Test.

Fiji Bati could be excused for already having one eye planted firmly on next year's World Cup knowing full well their whole country will be on board for the ride.

The Bati's stature in international rugby league is one of the largest growing and it has materialised once again for this weekend's test against Papua New Guinea at Pirtek Stadium.

Fiji were a shining light in both the 2008 and 2013 World Cups after finishing fourth on each occasion and those experiences have helped cultivate a real family feel among coach Mick Potter's squad.

What hasn't quite been revealed in the two years since the last World Cup however is the huge influence the Fijian locals have had on this budding Bati culture.

Following their World Cup semi-final defeat to the Kangaroos in 2013, the Fijians flew back into Nadi before embarking on a supposed three-hour bus trip to the capital Suva on the other side of the country. 

The locals caught wind the Bati were in town and ensured their bus trip would be a memorable experience – and an eventual eight-hour journey.

"We never expected it. We didn't really realise the support we had back in Fiji, nobody realised until we went home and experienced what we did. It was enormous," Fijian veteran Kevin Naiqama told

"It was definitely an eye-opener and all the boys felt really proud. When we arrived in Suva they shut down the main strip and they had a huge parade. We couldn't believe the reception. It was humbling and we were all happy to make the nation so proud."

At the time, Roosters front-rower Kane Evans was a fresh-faced 21-year-old and hadn't yet made his NRL debut.

Evans had just finished his first campaign representing Fiji alongside Naiqama, Petero Civoniceva and the Sims brothers and couldn't believe his luck when every village on their way to Suva wanted to express their gratitude. 

"The people in Fiji don't have much but they're always content with what they have and they're always happy and loving. When we're representing them we want to give it our all," Evans told

"The results don't even matter to Fijian people. When we came fourth in the World Cup, just to see that unconditional support from them was amazing. 

"Every village on the way [to Suva] stopped us and welcomed us with their songs. They would put the traditional baby powder on your face and throw leis on you and by the time we arrived in Suva it took us eight hours. 

"There's only one main road so they were waving down the bus and stopping us. It was mad. Moments like that make me want to give it my all for the Fijian people."

Instances like that have helped build rugby league's satus in Fiji hugely and Naiqama believes it's increased the importance of performing well while representing the Bati.

"We look back on it now as definitely helping build our culture especially which young kids can look up to. Lots of kids were running around, wanting to take photos and shake your hand," Naiqama said.

"Rugby league is big back home and is definitely still growing. The platform was set when my brother (Wes Naiqama) and Haynsy (Jarryd Hayne) played for Fiji two World Cups ago.

"It's allowed the likes of Kane and I to be able to show the way since for our young Fijians. It's a pride thing. We don't get any money playing for our country but it's such a privilege and honour to represent it. 

"We're not taking this test lightly. Any time you represent Fiji is the ultimate honour."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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