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Australia v Fiji - Teams and Prediction

WORLD CUP, ROUND TWO: History is not on Fiji’s side when they tackle Australia in their World Cup pool C in Saint Etienne on Sunday.

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The Flying Fijians have only beaten Australia twice in 22 Tests, and not since an 18-16 success in Sydney in 1954.

They have met in three of the last four World Cup tournaments, with Australia running out winners every time.

Fiji return to Saint-Étienne for the first time since 2001 against France, while Australia will play here for the first time.

The Fijians suffered a 77-10 loss here to France 22 years ago, their heaviest defeat against any team on French soil.

Fiji thrilled with their expansive game last week against Wales but came up agonisingly short in a 32-26 defeat in Bordeaux, meaning they cannot afford to lose again against the Wallabies, who started their campaign with a 35-15 success against Georgia.

“It’s a do-or-die game for us, so that’s our mentality going into this week,” said Nayacalevu.

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Another defeat would surely end Fiji’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

Fiji dominated statistically against Wales, with more than 60 percent possession and territorial advantage, and carrying for 655 metres compared to 396.

Wales made more than 250 tackles in a stubborn rearguard action and held off a rousing finish from Fiji with two tries in the final eight minutes.

“We carried very well, we had a lot of possession but we turned over the ball quite a lot — I think 17 times and nine of them were in the actual contact,” said Fiji’s head coach Simon Raiwalui.

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“So we’ve worked on that, securing that ball and just taking our chances when we have them.”

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That is something Australia are wary of.

“They’ve got that Fijian flair, they’ve got world class players across the board and they love to throw the ball around anywhere on the field,” said Wallaby fly-half Carter Gordon.

Australia have been working on getting numbers around the ball carrier, not just to bring him down but also to prevent an offload.

“We’ve been working on our defence and just trying to nullify the opportunities we give them with the ball,” said lock Nick Frost, 23, who is prefered to Richie Arnold.

“You can see after training, the boys are doing extras in defending and working on our tackles and working as a collective because that’s what Fiji is looking for with broken lines and we can’t give them that.

“As everyone knows, Fijians are really hard to tackle, they’re made out of stone.”

 ‘A lot of strike weapons’

Australia may have started the second Eddie Jones era with five straight defeats before their win over Georgia in Paris, but Raiwalui has been impressed with the young squad put together by the veteran coach.

“They’ve been playing very well, they’ve got a young dynamic team, very aggressive on the gainline: their carries, their cleans, a lot of strike weapons across the field,” said Raiwalui.

Those are the kind of compliments usually aimed at the Flying Fijians, who in recent years have added forward steel to their backs’ ingenuity.

“The power contest will be interesting, they’ve got a very big pack. But we want to take them on in that area,” said Jones, who has plumped for experience in tighthead prop James Slipper, 34, and scrum-half Nic White, 33.

He has an injury doubt over captain Will Skelton, though, who limped out of Thursday’s training before heading for a scan on Friday.

 ‘Proud of all Fijians’

It will be a special occasion for several Australia players with Fijian origins.

Centre Samu Kerevi, left wing Marika Koroibete and replacement back Suli Vunivalu were all born in Fiji, while right wing Mark Nawaqanitawase, No.8 Rob Valetini and replacement scrum-half Isaak Fines-Leleiwasa have family ties to the island nation.

“It’s a big moment for them, obviously for being Fijian-descended, but obviously to get out and rip it representing Australia,” said Frost.

Raiwalui is glad to see Fijians succeeding, whoever they play for.

“We’re proud of all Fijians that play all over the world,” he said.

“Some have had to go overseas to find opportunities but we’re proud of all our brothers.”

Players to watch

For Fiji: The two Fijians to watch are Viliame Mata and Ilaisa Droasese, who were in the top three ball carriers in the opening weekend, making a tournament-high 22 carries and the third-most with 19 consecutively. Wing Semi Radradra is regarded as their main attacking threats as one of the stars against Wales last week. Eroni Mawi will be in the spotlight against James Slipper, who will pack down in only his third international at tighthead and Mawi could cause him a few problems.

For Australia: Fraser McReight hit the most defensive rucks of any player across the opening weekend with 11, winning two breakdown turnovers and Eddie Jones will no doubt expect the same from McReight. Ben Donaldson is another huge threat having scored 25 points on his World Cup debut last weekend, the most by any Wallaby in a RWC game since Bernard Foley’s 28 points against England in 2015. The half-back combination of Nic White and Carter Gordon will be a huge test for the Wallabies, as they have never started alongside each other for Australia. And then there is the experienced James Slipper in only his second start of the season, and first since the second round of the Rugby Championship against Argentina in Sydney and that in the unfamiliar position of tighthead. Dave Porecki will be a tower of strength in the line-outs having won 100% of his lineout throws last weekend against Georgia.

Key RWC info:

  • Fiji have dropped two placings to ninth on the World Rugby rankings following their six-point loss against Wales.
  • Fiji’s opening game had the highest ball-in-play time of any match in the round one, with 37 minutes and 52 seconds.
  • Fiji have scored 16 of their 23 tries this season from set-piece, with nine originating from the lineout and seven from the scrum.
  • The Wallabies will be chasing back-to-back victories for the first time since 2021 when they won five consecutive tests across the Rugby Championship and against Japan.
  • They have climbed two places to seventh in the World Rugby rankings.
  • Their past five victories prior to last week have all be followed by a loss the very next game.
  • In attack, they scored a season-high 35 points and their joint-most tries in a game this season after also crossing four times against Argentina in Sydney.

Australia v Fiji - Teams and Prediction

Prediction
@rugby365com: Australia by 15 points

Teams:

Australia: 15 Ben Donaldson; 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete; 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Nic White; 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Tom Hooper; 5 Will Skelton (captain), 4 Nick Frost; 3 James Slipper, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Suli Vunivalu

Fiji: 15 Ilaisa Droasese; 14 Jiuta Wainiqolo, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu (captain), 12 Josua Tuisova, 11 Semi Radradra; 10 Teti Tela, 9 Simione Kuruvoli; 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Lekima Tagitagivalu; 5 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 4 Isoa Nasilasila; 3 Luke Tagi, 3 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Eroni Mawi
Replacements: 16 Tevita Ikanivere,17 Peni Ravai, 18 Mesake Doge, 19 Temo Mayanavanua, 20 Albert Tuisue, 21 Frank Lomani, 22 Vilimoni Botitu, 23 Vinaya Habosi

Date: Sunday, September 17
Venue: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne
Kick-off: 17.45 (15.45 GMT, 01.45 Monday, September 18 AEST, 03.45 Monday, September 18 FJT)
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (SARU), Chris Busby (IRFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)

Additional sources: AFP & @WorldRugby

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