Samoa, Fiji and to a lesser extent Tonga have been fierce competitors in previous World Cups, but they have gone backwards mostly because their best players have been poached by England, Australia and New Zealand, and because these island nations can’t get the wealthy nations to visit them and thus help them generate income while promoting the game.
There is also the downright greedy ruling in New Zealand and Australia that has all of their Super Rugby players having to declare their allegiance to those countries, meaning the Islanders in those Super Rugby teams can’t play for their home countries.
I get that New Zealand and Australia have this rule to ensure that their pools of players eligible for the All Blacks and Wallabies respectively remain strong and undiluted by foreign mercenaries, but haven’t they got enough quality players? Certainly New Zealand has.
But then without this rule, Australia would be without two of its best backs in Marika Koroibete and Samu Karevi (both Fijians). What a difference they would have made in the Australia-Fiji game in round one had they been in the white jerseys of their homeland.