Fiji, Tonga and Samoa have overcome obstacles simply to compete at the World Cup but now that they are there they will relish exhibiting their considerable skills while enjoying some good support.
The greatest of their impediments is financial, the stringencies of small economies which have forced the Pacific island teams to prepare on a shoestring budget, supported in part by the generosity of their own fans
There is also the persistent and confounding problem of the availability of their best players - left with no choice but to earn their livings overseas and only occasionally available to play for their homelands.
There have also been, since the last World Cup, natural disasters and political turmoil which have more deeply damaged Pacific preparations. A 2009 tsunami, generated by a massive earthquake, killed 125 people in Samoa and nine in Tonga and exacerbated hardship endemic to both nations.
Fiji continues to feel the effects of a 2006 military coup, not least through sanctions which reflect the disapproval of Australia and New Zealand. Those with ties to the Fiji military regime are banned from New Zealand, though a compassionate exemption was granted to a young soldier, Leone Nakarawa, who was named as a lock in the Fiji team.
The volatile politics of all three nations imposed itself insidiously on their buildup. The board of Fiji's rugby union stepped down under government pressure early this year and was replaced by a group led by senior military figures, more sympathetic to the ruling regime.
Only weeks before Tonga was due to play the opening match of the World Cup against host New Zealand, its Parliament approved by 13 votes to four a petition calling for the removal of the chairman of the Tongan Rugby Union Authority.
The chairman resigned and Tonga approaches the World Cup facing the threat of International Rugby Board sanctions.
Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, recently called the IRB "a most unfair organization", highlighting its failure to address Pacific concerns over player availability, residency regulations and revenue sharing.
He also pointed out that the growth in profile of the World Cup owes a huge amount to the Pacific nations who are now so neglected.
In many ways, it has been the ability of the Pacific teams to upset top nations at the past five tournaments which has made the event the success it has become.
When the first World Cup was proposed in 1987 there were many, even within the sport, who doubted rugby was a sufficiently global game to sustain a 20-nation world tournament. It was assumed the sport's major nations would trample smaller opponents and the tournament would only prove that rugby was a sport dominated by a half-dozen or so powerful nations.
The Pacific nations helped more than any others to dispel that belief. While half of the 24 pool matches in 1987 were won by a team that scored 40 points or more and the tournament saw five of the seven highest-scoring matches in World Cup history, Fiji and Tonga bucked the trend.
Ever since, it has been the Pacific nations which have provided the tournament's greatest upsets. In 1991, Samoa beat Wales 16-13 on Wales' home ground at Cardiff Arms Park. It did so again, 38-31, in 1999, while Fiji beat Wales 38-34 to reach the quarterfinals in 2003.
The same potential exists in the Pacific sides of 2011, as Samoa has already proven with their shock 32-23 upset win in July over world No. 2 Australia. The Samoans believes they missed opportunities at the last World Cup and are determined, with a better team, to atone for that failure.
"I think we really let ourselves down at the last World Cup so there's a lot of motivation going into this one," captain Seilala Mapusua said. "There's an agreement among the boys that it's about time we fulfilled our potential as this is possibly our last one together."
Samoa has been drawn in the toughest pool at the tournament with defending champion South Africa, Wales and Pacific rivals Fiji. Both Samoa and Fiji have previously beaten Wales at World Cups.
"It's a very tough pool," Mapusua said. "I'm actually glad Fiji are in our group as they seem to be Wales' bogey team and South Africa don't always do well against Wales, so it's an exciting pool.
"It is going to be very tough and I think it will go down to the final round of pool matches," he added.
Mapusua said Pacific nations had to look at a New Zealand World Cup as the equivalent of a home tournament.
"A lot of us have said in the past that this is as close to a home World Cup as we'll get, and it is a home World Cup for a lot of the boys who were born and raised in New Zealand, so it's really exciting for us and really exciting for our people too," he said.
Fiji beat Wales in pool play to reach the quarterfinals of the 2007 World Cup but their world ranking has since dropped from a high of No. 8 to 15th, behind Samoa and Tonga.
Fiji prop Deacon Manu, who made his career in New Zealand before moving to Wales, hopes to lead his team back into rugby's top echelon.
"To be captain of Fiji is such a great honour and one I accept with a great deal of reverence and respect," he said. "I am confident that with the support of the senior players, the team management and the backing of Fiji rugby fans around the world the team will perform well. The task is an honourable one."
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