Petero Civoniceva has always represented Fiji - even when he played for Australia. ''I was representing both countries,'' Civoniceva says. ''When I was fortunate enough to be picked for Australia the first time I had that conversation with my parents about how you get to wear the jersey of Australia but you are representing the Fijian culture as well.''

It is fitting then that 12 years later, Civoniceva will play what is expected to be his last game in Saturday's World Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium wearing a Bati jersey against the country he represented 45 times.

While the giant front-rower tells you he is approaching this game no differently than the other 400-odd he has played in the NRL and at representative level, he also says playing for Fiji has been like no other experience in his remarkable 15-year career.

''It has been everything I thought it would be,'' he says. ''I was born in Fiji but left at a very young age and my parents settled in Redcliffe and from there I was very much Australianised in my upbringing. But in my heart there was always a desire to recognise my heritage, and to do it at the very end of my career is something I am very grateful for.''

Jarryd Hayne tells anyone who asks about the positive impact playing for Fiji at the 2008 World Cup had on him and Civoniceva says he knew after hearing the Parramatta superstar speak about the experience that his time with the Bati would be special.

Although he is not deeply religious, the 37-year-old says rising as a team for a daily 7.30am devotion has brought the players closer. However, those in the Bati camp say it has been a reciprocal arrangement and the respect Civoniceva commands is obvious in the Twickenham cafe where this interview is conducted as teammates and officials interrupt to speak with him.

On the field, his influence is credited with helping the team qualify for the semi-finals at consecutive World Cups to officially prove Fiji is the game's fourth-best nation.

In doing so, they have ensured the game will grow even stronger as the success of the Bati has captured the imagination of fans in Fiji.

''People are waking up early and kids aren't going to school because they want to watch the Bati play,'' Civoniceva says. ''It is amazing, we are on the cusp of taking rugby league in Fiji to another level. I know this tournament in some circles has been criticised because of lopsided scores but I wish the people writing those stories would go to Fiji and ask people there what the World Cup means to them.

''They would get a totally different perspective on what this competition has done for the game and what it will do in terms of the game's growth in Fiji.''

Civoniceva, who was six months old when his parents Petero snr and Tima moved to Brisbane after his father and several other Fijians were recruited to play rugby union, says he followed Fiji league stars such as Noa Nadruku, James Pickering and Manoa Thompson when he was growing up. ''From a young age I was always on the lookout for players of Fiji heritage and as I was growing up I learnt of some of the Fiji players who came out in the 1960s to St George and similarly to Brisbane,'' he says.

During this World Cup, the Bati have stayed at Rochdale, which has the biggest Fijian population in England after the club recruited four players from Fiji in the 1960s.

At the time, Fijians were forbidden to leave their country except under certain circumstances and more than 200 joined the British army, where they were based at Catterick, including Mike Ratu - the first of three generations to play for Rochdale. ''I have been blown away by the support, not just in Fiji but here as well,'' Civoniceva says. ''I have always had that desire to learn more about my country of birth and it is such a proud feeling to be able to promote rugby league as well.

''That is something that sits well with me and I have been blessed to have such a long career with the Australian team but I was always mindful that there would have been a lot of Fijian kids that obviously identified with me.''

Civoniceva, who has a job with the NRL as a community engagement officer in Brisbane, also intends to remain involved with the Fiji Rugby League. ''On the back of this I think we can really work as hard as possible on the development of the game,'' he says. ''Just to see where the game has gone in Fiji over the last five years, the numbers playing the game now and the interest generated because of players of Fijian heritage playing in the NRL has been amazing and hopefully we are going to produce more players like Akuila Uate, Marika Koroibete or Jarryd Hayne.''

Or Petero Civoniceva.