Wales’ ability to lift themselves for another big match after just five days will be crucial to their cause when they face Fiji in Cardiff on Thursday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
As spectacular as Wales’ win over England was on Saturday, it would have been both physically and mentally draining, while also taking a big injury toll.
Liam Williams, Halla Amos and Scott Williams all sustained injuries, which has forced a backline reshuffle, but otherwise Warren Gatland has stuck with the side that performed so bravely at Twickenham.
'It’s tough to come back down, but we haven’t talked too much about England,' Gatland admitted on Tuesday. 'Our whole focus has been on preparing for Fiji. We had a light session this morning and we’ll have a heavier session this afternoon.'
It’s understandable that Gatland has picked his strongest team, though, considering a win over Fiji could be enough to secure their progression to the knockout stage.
A victory, coupled with a Wallabies win over England on Saturday, would ensure Wales can celebrate leaving the Pool of Death with a game still to play. However, a defeat would blow the pool wide open again and reignite England’s hopes of qualifying.
With this in mind, the performance of starting-lineup newcomers Matthew Morgan, Alex Cuthbert and Tyler Morgan could be match-defining, but so will that of the other battle-weary players who will have to get up again for what is sure to be a physical clash against Fiji.
By contrast, the Fijians have been able to benefit from a good week’s break since their last match against the Wallabies, although significantly, they will be without the suspended Nemani Nadolo for this encounter.
Fiji have had their moments against both England and Australia during the early stages of the tournament, and remain dangerous opponents.
However, if Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar can maintain his outstanding goal-kicking form and keep the scoreboard ticking over, there really shouldn’t be any surprises on Thursday.
BIGGAR’S STATS THAT MATTER
23 – Points scored against England (seven penalties, one conversion)
20 – Kicks from hand
20 – Passes
19 – Metres carried
HEAD TO HEAD
Wales 8, Fiji 1, Draw 1
Wales – 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 James Hook.
Fiji – 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Lepani Botia, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Maafu.
Subs: 16 Viliame Veikoso, 17 Peni Ravia, 18 Leeroy Atalifo, 19 Nemia Soqeta, 20 Malakai Ravulo, 21 Henry Seniloli, 22 Joshua Matavesi, 23 Kini Murimurivalu.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images