Dotted throughout the Pacific Ocean are a variety of small island nations. They are some of the smallest countries in the world, by population and land area; however, on the rugby pitch they field, they make some of the toughest opponents. Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa have world-class teams despite budgets and populations dwarfed by the competition.
Pacific Warriors is a documentary that details the status of national rugby teams in Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. Through a combination of warrior attitudes, tremendous physical strength, and stubborn resilience, these men compete at the highest levels of rugby. They have made an indelible mark on the sport, most recently in the Olympics. Gold medal favorite Fiji exceeded expectations by not only winning first place, but thrashing runner up Great Britain by a whopping 36 points. It marked Fiji’s first ever Olympic medal, a feat that brought the nation to a standstill and created a national holiday.
The documentary features interviews with renowned players from around the world—first-hand accounts from islander players and those who faced them in games and tournaments. Also included are clips illustrating the training venues, or lack thereof, available to islander teams in comparison to facilities used by their opponents. The staggering difference in resources raises questions as to how good the islanders would be if given access to the same opportunities as their wealthier counterparts in New Zealand, Australia, England, or South Africa. However, in this David vs. Goliath struggle, the underdogs are physically closer to Goliath.
While geared towards rugby aficionados, this documentary is entertaining for all sports fans. The charismatic islanders are popular on the world stage, earning respect and praise wherever they play. This is easily understood through their good humor and laid-back attitudes as the documentary interviews past and present players. For the athletes, these close-knit teams are a second family, and for some players the team contains actual family members. It is not uncommon for a national team to have second or even third generation players from a family, and brothers or cousins often find themselves playing together on the international stage.
Directed by James Marquand and narrated by Brian Cox, Pacific Warriors is available on Netflix. Sports fans seeking to familiarize themselves with rugby and the first Fijian Olympic champions would appreciate this educational and true, underdog story.