Fiji unlikely to spoil Group D party

Fiji’s pose a threat but are unlikely to sneak through the pool stages to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2007 World Cup.

Fiji has competed at every World Cup and advanced to the quarter-finals on two occasions. However, it’s a feat they seem unlikely to replicate after being drawn in a tough pool with Australia, Wales, Georgia and Uruguay. Inconsistency has always been one of the Islanders’ biggest problems and might well be their downfall at this year’s showpiece.

Unlike their compatriots in the shorter form of the game, who’ve been setting the seven circuits alight, the Flying Fijians have slumped to a number of inglorious defeats since the 2015 World Cup, none more so than their 14-3 loss against Georgia in 2016, a 27-19 loss to Tonga in 2018 and a shock 34-21 defeat at the hands of Japan earlier this year. In an ideal world, the Fijians would upset one of the big two they are scheduled to face, but the reality is not even victory against Uruguay, the lowest-ranked side in Pool D, is a foregone conclusion.

Despite all their promise and individual talent, Fiji has waned as a rugby nation and a big chunk of the blame can be laid at the door of its administrators, who seem unable, or unwilling, to resolve the union’s financial struggles.

Key players:

Fiji will rely heavily on flyhalf Ben Volavola to marshall their attack, while counting on power runners
Josua Tuisova and Semi Radradra to get them front-foot ball.

However, it’s Leone Nakarawa who will be their most important player.

Regarded as one of the best locks in the world, the 31-year-old is one of the most influential members of Racing’s star-studded squad. That point was best illustrated when Nakarawa was named European Player of the Year in 2018, despite Racing losing to Leinster in the Champions Cup final. Renowned for his offloading skills, athleticism and general play in open field, it’s understandable the execution of his primary responsibilities often goes unnoticed. But his lineout exploits are right up there with the best second rowers around.

More than anything, Fiji will be hoping his form at club level translates to the Test arena.

– This is a snippet from October issue of SA Rugby Magazine that previews every team at the World Cup, now on sale!  

Photo: Getty Images

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