After cruising through the group stages Fiji play a New Zealand side still smarting from last weekend’s historic loss to Tonga. This will be New Zealand and Fiji’s first ever meeting; what better setting than a World Cup quarter final in Wellington?
While New Zealand played one of the toughest Tests against Tonga, the Bati again posted a big win: beating Italy 38-10. The match was much tougher than what Fiji had faced so far; Mick Potter will have enjoyed watching his side being pushed all the way in preparation for this week’s quarter final.
David Kidwell and Adam Blair were clearly hurting during the post-match press conference, the Kiwis will be nursing sore bodies and egos after the Tonga loss. New Zealand will know with better game management they should have won the match after leading 16-2 at half time; the Kiwis won’t want another loss to another Pacific Islands neighbour.
On paper the battle between the outside backs looks to be the marquee match up, with Fiji arguably possessing the more dangerous players in Suliasi Vunivalu, Akuila Uate, and Jarryd Hayne. But the key battle is in the forwards; Fiji have the speed and creativity to score enough points to beat New Zealand but the question is do they have the forwards to handle the likes of Marty Taupau, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Fiji will know they can’t win the game in the first 20 minutes but certainly could lose it if they fail to deal with the early Kiwi onslaught; the New Zealand forwards will be looking to regain some pride after being outmuscled last week. If Fiji can hold their own in the middle then the likes of Hayne, Vunivalu and co will be able to inject themselves into the match, but if not it could be a long night for Fiji with Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck running riot.
New Zealand are heavy favourites and will know if they play to their full potential they’ll win this game easily and set up a likely semi final with Australia. But if the Kiwis are off their game then the door will be open for the dangerous Bati side; as we learnt last week the door only has to be open a little. Expect New Zealand to win a high-scoring affair by 16.
Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, Saturday 7.30pm (5.30pm AEDT)
New Zealand 21-man squad
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Brad Takairangi, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Te Maire Martin, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Martin Taupau, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11 Simon Mannering, 12 Joseph Tapine, 13 Adam Blair (c), 14 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 15 Russell Packer, 16 Isaac Liu, 17 Kodi Nikorima, 18 Kenny Bromwich, 19 Jason Nightingale, 20 Peta Hiku, 21 Addin Fonua-Blake
Fiji 21-man squad
1 Kevin Naiqama (c), 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Taane Milne, 4 Akuila Uate, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Jarryd Hayne, 7 Henry Raiwalui, 8 Ashton Sims, 9 Apisai Koriosau, 10 Eloni Vunakece, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Brayden Williame, 13 Tui Kamikamica, 14 Joe Lovodua, 15 Jacob Saifiti, 16 Junior Roqica, 17 Ben Nakubuwai, 18 James Storer, 19 Salesi Faingaa, 20 Sitiveni Moceidreke, 21 Pio Sokobalavau