Australia v Fiji preview: Wallabies to go joint top of Pool A
Having had the luxury of scoping out their main group rivals England and Wales, Australia will be raring to go in their World Cup opener. The two-time Champions are many people’s tip for the tournament, and this clash with Fiji will be a test of their credentials.
Australia have some ground to make up on the home nations in this Pool, who both earned maximum points from their opening encounters. The Wallabies will be looking for a bonus point win of their own to kickstart their campaign and keep pace with the leaders.
Fiji meanwhile must dust themselves down from a promising but fruitless display against the hosts as they themselves try to get off the mark.
Michael Cheika has named the second most capped Australian side in the tournament’s history, although seven of the starting lineup are making their World Cup bow in this tie.
The debutants include loosehead prop Scott Sio, lock Kane Douglas, flankers Scott Fardy and Michael Hooper, fly-half Bernard Foley, outside centre Tevita Kuridrani and full-back Israel Folau.
Nevertheless, a total of 720 Test caps places this side at just 78 behind the Wallabies record set against Japan at the 2007 edition of the competition.
Skipper Stephen Moore is just three caps away from a century of appearances for his country, and he is set to make history by becoming the first hooker to captain Australia at a World Cup.
With Uruguay next up just four days later, Cheika has claimed that he is keen to give all his players World Cup minutes in this ‘Pool of death’.
Versatile veteran Michael Giteau is set to make his 11th World Cup appearance, and he will look to add to his fantastic tally of seven tries in his third World Cup.
Fiji are making just four changes to the side that was beaten 35-11 by England in the curtain raiser.
Netani Talei replaces Sakiusa Matadigo at Number eight, Tuapati Talemaitoga is in at hooker for Sunia Koto and Tevita Cavubati covers for Apisalome Ratuniyawara in the second row.
The Flying Fijians acquitted themselves well in their group opener and skipper Akapusi Quera will lead his troops out on the occasion of his 49th cap, looking for points.
Flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu has been retrospectively banned for one match after admitting to an act of foul play during the clash with England. The incident in question relates to a purported dangerous tip tackle on Jonny May.
The flanker has 48 hours in which to appeal the decision, but he has already admitted guilt and will therefore be ineligible for this game, so Peceli Yato moves onto the breach.
Players to watch
Full-back Folau has scored 18 five pointers in just 33 appearances for the Wallabies and the 26-year-old could make a significant impact on his World Cup debut. He will need to be observant in defence as was proven by Ben Volavola’s precision from a cross-field kick last week, but he will also be lethal on the counter attack with his incredible pace. Could well be one of the leading try scorers in this year’s competition.
After seeing the devastation he almost caused against England, expect the Aussies to have done their homework on Nikola Matawalu. The speed demon almost left both Jonny May and Mike Brown for dead, and would have scored an unbelievable solo try but for their last ditch tackles that forced the long reaching paw of Matawalu to agonizingly drop the ball over the try line. Australia will have to be on red alert as the scrum-half looks to add to his eight international tries.
With their two main rivals on five points apiece, it is paramount that Australia draw level with them from this game. They will have analyzed Fiji’s strengths and weaknesses from their England clash, and will be mindful not to underestimate their opponents, by heeding the perils that await them should they do so, from what happened to fellow two-time Champions South Africa. The plucky Fijians will not lack motivation once again and will play with great character. As they displayed in the first match, they are more than capable of competing at set pieces, and will look to benefit from their speed once again.
Australia by 30.
Australia: 15. Israel Folau; 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Matt Giteau, 11. Rob Horne, 10. Bernard Foley, 9. Will Genia, 8. David Pocock, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Scott Fardy, 5. Rob Simmons, 4. Kane Douglas, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Scott Sio
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Greg Holmes, Will Skelton, Dean Mumm, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale
Fiji: 15. Metuisela Talebula, 14. Waisea Nayacalevu, 13. Vereniki Goneva, 12. Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11. Nemani Nadolo, 10. Ben Volavola, 9. Nikola Matawalu, 8. Netani Talei, 7. Akapusi Qera, 6. Peceli Yato, 5. Leone Nakarawa, 4. Tevita Cavubati, 2. Tuapati Talemaitoga, 1. Campese Ma’afu
Replacements: 16. Viliame Veikoso, 17. Peni Ravai, 18. Isei Colati, 19. Nemia Soqeta, 20. Malakai Ravulo, 21. Nemia Kenatale, 22. Joshua Matavesi, 23. Aseli Tikoirotuma
Date: Wednesday, September 23
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 16:45 local (15:45 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)