Wales v Fiji: Teams and Prediction
BOUNCE BACK: Wales will seek to bounce back from two losses to New Zealand and South Africa when they take on perennial Rugby World Cup pool opponents Fiji in Cardiff on Sunday.
The Welsh have won 10 of 12 games they have played against the Pacific islanders, their sole loss coming in the 2007 World Cup.
But games have a tendency of being closer encounters than the statistics show, with four of Wales’ victories by seven points or less.
“They are a passionate rugby nation,” said Wales coach Wayne Pivac, who also took charge of Fiji between 2004-07.
*Article continues below…
In Pivac’s first year at the helm, Fiji were edged 10-11 by Wales in 2005 international in Cardiff, months after he helped the sevens team to the World Cup title.
“Sevens was the number one sport followed by 15s and they’ll come on Sunday and relish the opportunity to play in front of a big crowd. I know they’ll be looking forward to it,” the New Zealander said.
Pivac’s compatriot Vern Cotter is the coach of Fiji, but has not made the trip to the northern hemisphere because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, along with a raft of players based in the southern hemisphere.
In situ will be Welshman Gareth Baber, recalled on a temporary basis after leading Fiji to Olympic sevens gold at the Tokyo Games.
Pivac insisted the absence of Cotter and missing players would not detract from the fixture.
“In a way, my experience is that the best players are in the northern hemisphere, up here earning big money,” he said.
“They’ll have a strong side, there is no doubt about that. It’s unfortunate Vern can’t come and one or two of the management staff, but since my time there Fiji have come a long way.
“They’re a side that you can’t rest against. The offloading game is second to none. The Fijians love ball-in-hand and they’re very skilful,” Pivac said, with Fiji having beaten Spain 43-13 last weekend.
*Article continues below…
Stand-in Fiji coach Baber, a Cardiff-born former scrumhalf and a former coach of the capital city region, admitted his family – who will be present at the Principality Stadium – would be supporting the Pacific team.
“We are in Cardiff and we’re playing against Wales, but ultimately, my response is to really get a performance this weekend and create history with this group of players,” Baber said.
Wales, he said, “will be physical and they will try and play a quick game. So we’re working on things to counter that”.
Baber added it wasn’t the time to read too much into this game ahead of another Rugby World Cup pool draw in France in 2023.
“They’ve played each other in successive World Cup since 2007 and it’s going to continue in the next World Cup, so it makes it all very interesting.
“But the reality is that both teams are at different stages in their development, to look into form too deeply at this point in time would be probably jumping the gun in some regards.”
Fiji have made seven changes from the team that beat Spain, with Bristol Bears centre Semi Radradra absent through injury although Clermont prop Peni Ravai starts.
Ellis Jenkins has been named Wales captain with highly-rated teenager Christ Tshiunza set to make his debut from the bench.
Players to watch:
For Wales: Head coach Wayne Pivac has made just one change to the pack that faced South Africa last weekend, with Thomas Young coming on to the openside flank and Taine Basham moving to No.8 in place of the injured Aaron Wainwright. Flyhalf Dan Biggar remains the cornerstone in a much-changed backline and will be closely watched by the Fiji defence. It is also a chance for scrumhalf Kieran Hardy to prove himself. Ospreys’ Alex Cuthbert will make his first international appearance since November 2017.
For Fiji: Giant Lose Head Prop Peni Ravia makes his way back and will join the regulars Hooker Sam Matavesi and Tight Head Prop Mesake Doge in the front row. The selection will ensure a very physical battle upfront. Api Ratuniyarawa replaces Leone Nakarawa and gets the starting nod. He has the huge responsibility of calling the line-outs. Albert Tuisue has moved up to the flanker’s position while Viliame Mata returns to his favourite number eight jersey. In the backs, Frank Lomani returns at scrumhalf relegating Nikola Matawalu to the bench and after a strong outing against Spain, the blockbusting wings Josua Tuisova and Eroni Sau earn their places in the starting line-up. Flyhalf Ben Volavola is another player that can make a huge impact.
Head to head:
Wales v Fiji
Last 10 encounters
@rugby365com: Wales by 12 points.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Josh Adams, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Louis Rees-Zammit, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Taine Basham, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ellis Jenkins (captain), 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Roberts, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Christ Tshiunza, 20 Seb Davies, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Nick Tompkins.
Fiji: 15 Setareki Tuicuvu, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu (captain), 12 Vilimoni Botitu, 11 Eroni Sau, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Mesulame Kunavula, 6 Albert Tuisue, 5 Temo Mayanavanua, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Peni Ravai.
Replacements: Zuriel Togiatama, Eroni Mawi, Leeroy Atalifo, Tevita Ratuva, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Nikola Matawalu, Apisai Naqalevu, Aminiasi Tuimaba.
Date: Sunday, November 14
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15.15 (15.15 GMT; 03.15 FJT Monday, November 15)
Expected weather: It’s set to be partly cloudy with a slight breeze and a high of 13°C and a low of 8°C.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)
@rugby365com & AFP