Ireland v Fiji - Teams and Prediction
PREVIEW: Ireland will be out to continue their winning streak when they host Fiji on Saturday in Dublin.
The Irish head into this encounter as clear favourites having beaten South Africa 19-16 last weekend.
Andy Farrell’s side are bidding for an 11th successive home Test win when Fiji visit on Saturday.
The fixture will only be the fifth time Ireland and Fiji have met in a Test match. Ireland have won all four previous encounters.
However, despite the favourite tag, the fixture will be far from easy for the Irish, who last scrapped past the Fijian with a narrow 23-20 during the 2017 internationals.
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To make things more testing for Ireland, they will be led by a new captain namely prop Tadhg Furlong.
Furlong will captain the side in what will be his 62nd Test, stepping in for Irish talisman Johnny Sexton, who is still feeling the effects of a dead leg he suffered in last Saturday’s 19-16 win over world champions South Africa.
The 29-year-old is not the first prop to captain Ireland, the last one to do so was Simon Best against Argentina in 2007.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said that with Sexton’s usual deputy James Ryan also requiring treatment Furlong was a natural choice to be skipper.
“We’ve documented quite a bit over the last period of time just how much his leadership has come on and his standing within the group, so I am a big believer in how people make people feel,” Farrell told reporters.
“Not just during the week but beforehand in the dressing room just before they go out and he becomes the obvious choice with that.”
Farrell has named Sexton’s long-time deputy Joey Carbery at flyhalf.
He will be partnered by Ireland’s first-choice scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park, who impressed against the Springboks when he came on at the end of the first half despite it being his first competitive rugby since July.
When asked about the Fijian challenge, Farrell said: “The unpredictability of what’s coming this weekend is something that we want to get good at managing as well.
“Because the way we want to keep developing our game with our decision-making and our skill execution under pressure that unpredictability gives us a chance to test ourselves in many ways.”
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‘We will have to step up against Ireland’
Fiji head coach Vern Cotter has made eight changes and a few positional adjustments following a 12-28 defeat by Scotland last Saturday.
Cotter has maintained his front row which sees Eroni Mawi at Loosehead Prop, Sam Matavesi at Hooker and at Tighthead Prop is Manasa Saulo.
Isoa Nasilasila starts at lock and will pair up with powerful Ratu Leone Rotuisolia who gets his second straight game after making his debut against Scotland.
Cotter has not touched his forward pack which is full of experience consisting of Albert Tuisue and Levani Botia at flanks and Viliame Mata at number eight.
Teti Tela starts at flyhalf in the back and will partner with flyhalf Frank Lomani. Kalaveti Ravouvou and captain Waisea Nayacalevu will continue their combinations in the midfield while Jiuta Wainiqolo comes in at right wing and Vinaya Habosi retains the number 11 jersey.
Setareki Tuicuvu moves to fullback after Kini Murimurivalu was ruled out due to an injury sustained during the match against Scotland last weekend.
Mesulame Dolokoto and Lee-Roy Atalifo will come as replacements in the front row while John Dyer returns into the fold after last playing for Flying Fijians in July 2021. Ben Volavola and Simione Kuruvoli are expected to add more firepower in the second half while Adrea Cocagi will highly likely earn his first cap off the bench.
Cotter said Vilimoni Botitu played very well at number 10 against Scotland last weekend but unfortunately missed the selection due to an injury while Maqala is being rested to give Adrea Cocagi a chance to prove himself.
“We want to give everybody a try during these three test matches. There is an opportunity for everybody to play and grow,” Cotter said.
He added that the Fijians need to display their best game and do everything right if they are to counter Ireland.
“We will have to step up against Ireland. There is three main access we are working on; we want to work on how we carry the ball and clean the ball so have to provide a fastball, we want to improve our defense and we want to be on top of our game in our set piece” said Cotter.
Cotter is expecting Ireland to give an opportunity to those players who have not played many games this season to test their squad depth ahead of the Rugby World Cup in France next year.
“The game against South Africa has given them an enormous amount of confidence and they are barely looking at us because they have Australia the week after. For them, it’s just a training session and for us, it’s a game where we can learn so we will use this opportunity to get better.
They are a very good team. They are not only physical but very slick, very good short passing game, in and around rucks, they can move the ball wide quickly and have a better kicking game” said Cotter.
Head to head
@rugby365com: Ireland by 15 points.
Ireland: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Jamison Gibson Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Caelan Doris, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Tadhg Furlong (captain), 2 Rob Herring, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Cian Prendergast, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Garry Ringrose.
Fiji: 15 Setareki Tuicuvu, 14 Jiuta Wainiqolo, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Kalaveti Ravouvou, 11 Vinaya Habosi, 10 Teti Tela, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Albert Tuisue, 5 Ratu Leone Rotuisolia, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Eroni Mawi.
Replacements: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Livai Natave, 18 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 19 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20 John Dyer, 21 Simione Kuruvoli, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Adrea Cocagi.
Date: Saturday, November 12
Venue: Lansdowne Road Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 13.00 (13.00 GMT; 01.00, Sunday, November 13 Fiji time)
Expected weather: It will be cloudy with high of 15°C and low of 13°C.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Tual Trainini (France), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Chris Hart (New Zealand)