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Fiji v Portugal - teams and prediction

WORLD CUP, ROUND FIVE: Fiji’s fairytale World Cup campaign has captured the imagination of the rugby-mad Pacific nation, where fans are willing their fleet-footed rugby heroes into the knock-out stages.

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An upset win over Australia has left the Flying Fijians on the verge of making the quarterfinals of a World Cup for the first time since 2007.

Fiji are the reigning Olympic men’s Sevens champions.

Fijian rugby players tend to excel at the abbreviated game with slick handling, fast feet, crunching tackles and a desire to run the ball from anywhere – often ending with outrageous tries.

But under head coach Simon Raiwalui, their 15-a-side national team has stepped up by beating England at Twickenham in a warm-up game before stunning Eddie Jones’ Australia 22-15 at the World Cup and carving out a 17-12 win over tier-two side Georgia.

A narrow nailbiting loss to Wales, decided in the dying seconds, has been their only World Cup defeat.

Fiji need just one point against Portugal on Sunday to confirm second place in Pool C on the head-to-head rule, having already beaten Australia.

‘Tough match’

Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui has brought in Top 14 star Vilimoni Botitu as one of six changes to the starting line-up from their last game against Georgia, while second-row Temo Manyanavanua will make his first World Cup start after three appearances off the bench, and Sireli Maqala earns his first start after just five minutes game time so far.

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“We had a few things to work on after the Georgia game, they tested us in certain areas, especially in the first half,” Raiwalui said.

“The boys, to their credit, answered those questions. We went back to basics this week.”

He added: “We’ve had some outstanding training, the guys have put their hands up. There have been some bangs and bruises from the last match and a couple of others who have really earned their spots.”

The Fiji coach braced himself for a challenging match against Portugal.

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“I’ve watched them since we knew we would be playing them and they play a great brand of rugby, with a good spirit under [head coach] Patrice Lagisquet.

“We know it will be a really tough match. We really want to perform to the best of our ability and if we do that, the result will take care of itself.”

Sign off in style

Patrice Lagisquet’s Portugal, however, will want to sign off from an encouraging tournament with a statement victory, as it is likely to be the final game for a number of those involved.

“Some people could think that we want to help Fiji more than Australia,” Lagisquet said.

“In fact, we don’t really care.

“We just care about us; about what this team is showing, what this team is doing on the pitch. We just want to keep performing, we want to keep competing like we did since the first minute of this competition.

“We still dream of victory.”

Commenting on his final game coaching Portugal, the mentor said: “I just want to appreciate every minute, every second, even if the last day was very difficult for me because I like all these players and I really appreciate what they’ve done since 26 June.

“I just want to share with them these last minutes of competition. It won’t really change anything for me. The last session, the beginning was not very good – I reacted the same way as usual.

“I just want to see if they can surprise me one more time and maybe search for the success that they all expect and they all deserve because they are giving so much since the beginning of the competition.

“I would like to share one more victory or something great one more time with them.”

Players to watch:

For Fiji: Lock Temo Manyanavanua will make his first World Cup start after three appearances off the bench at this tournament. Meli Derenalagi will make his World Cup debut and will certainly be out to prove himself. The new halves pairing of Frank Lomani and Vilimoni Botitu will be interesting to watch. Botitu will be wearing the number 10 jersey for only the second time in his career after starting at flyhalf in 2022 against Scotland. Captain Waisea Nayacalevu is a big threat, he made the fourth-most carries of any player in round four (17), including the joint-most dominant carries (9).

For Portugal: Defence will be key for Portugal and the team will look to Nicolas Martins to lead the way. He has missed just two of his 49 tackle attempts at World Cup 2023. Raffaele Storti is the only Portuguese player to have scored multiple tries at a World Cup (2) after four players all scored one each in 2007. The wing will be out to add to his tally. Samuel Marques is a threat from the ruck, making the joint-most box kicks of any scrumhalf (23) after round four, with the joint-second most retained (4).

Fiji v Portugal - teams and prediction

Fiji v Portugal - teams and prediction

 

Prediction: 

@rugby365com: Fiji by 20 points

Teams: 

Fiji: 15 Sireli Maqala, 14 Selesitino Ravutaumada, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu (captain), 12 Josua Tuisova, 11 Vinaya Habosi, 10 Vilimoni Botitu, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Meli Derenalagi, 5 Temo Mayanavanua, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Luke Tagi, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Eroni Mawi
Replacements: 16 Tevita Ikanivere, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Mesake Doge, 19 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 20 Albert Tuisue, 21 Peni Matawalu, 22 Teti Tela, 23 Iosefo Masi.

Portugal: 15 Manuel Cardoso Pinto, 14 Raffaele Storti, 13 Pedro Bettencourt, 12 José Lima (captain), 11 Rodrigo Marta, 10 Jerónimo Portela, 9 Samuel Marques, 8 Rafael Simões, 7 Nicolas Martins, 6 David Wallis, 5 Steevy Cerqueira, 4 José Madeira, 3 Diogo Hasse Ferreira, 2 Mike Tadjer, 1 Francisco Fernandes
Replacements: 16 David Costa, 17 Duarte Diniz, 18 Anthony Alves, 19 Duarte Torgal, 20 João Granate, 21 João Belo, 22 Tomás Appleton, 23 Vincent Pinto

Date: Sunday, October 8
Venue: Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse
Kick-off: 21.00 (19.00 GMT; 18.00 WEST; 7.00 Monday, October 9 FJT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa) & Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

*Additional reporting: WorldRugby & AFP

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