Australia and Fiji face off in a semi final for the third consecutive World Cup after both sides won their respective quarter finals. Fiji will know that history is against them as they have failed to score a try in their previous three encounters with the Kangaroos.
Fiji created history last week by defeating New Zealand in the quarter finals 4-2, the first time the Bati have beaten a ‘tier 1 nation’. Whilst Fiji set the group stages alight with their attacking flair, it was their stoic defence and clever game management that paved the way to this historic victory. The jubilation on the Bati players’ faces was clear to see; tears flowed as the players spoke of their pride and belief within the side.
Australia also created history in their quarter-final, as their match against Toa Samoa was the first ever Test match played in Darwin; the scoreline and result showed – as expected – an easy win to the Kangaroos. The highlight was the five-try effort from star winger Valentine Holmes, the Sharks winger showed why he is seen as one of the premier finishers in the game.
The Bati have struggled against Australia recently, scoring just two points in the previous three meetings; you have to go all the way back to the 2000 World Cup to find the last time Fiji scored a try against the Aussies when Tubua Cakacaka and Lote Tuquiri crossed. This Friday’s semi final looks like a huge mountain to climb for Fiji, with Australia looking a class above throughout the tournament, only allowing two tries in their four games.
Despite the Bati making the semi finals of the previous two World Cups, there seems to be a different feeling coming out of the Fijian camp; the players have not tried to hide or tame the confidence within the side, speaking of the energy, pride and faith that has formed since they got into camp. The players believe they can go all the way and will go into this match full of confidence after last week’s heroics; whilst no one else will give them a chance the Bati will know they have nothing to lose.
The key battle in this match will be how long Fiji can stay in the contest; if Australia come out firing and the score is 30-0 at halftime it’s game over. But the longer Fiji can keep the match alive the more their confidence will grow and the pressure will rise on Australia. The psychological battle within is sometimes just as important; if Fiji have any chance of winning they’ll have to win the mind games as well.
Mal Meninga’s side are clear favourites and will know if they play close to their best then a comfortable victory in inevitable, but Fiji will back themselves to once again create history. I see Australia continuing on their merry way and proving far too strong for the Bati, with a winning margin of 20 points.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24
Australia v Fiji, Brisbane Stadium, 8pm (AEDT)
Australia squad: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Dane Gagai, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Josh Dugan, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Josh McGuire, 14 Wade Graham, 15 Jordan McLean, 16 Reagan Cambell-Gillard, 17 Tyson Frizell, 18 Felise Kaufusi, 19 Tom Trbojevic, 20 Josh Mansour, 21 James Maloney
Fiji 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 Koroisau, 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