RLWC 2017 Match Preview: Australia vs. Fiji

Fiji kept their 2017 World Cup dream alive after an incredible win over the Kiwis last week, but now face the daunting task of taking on a red-hot Kangaroos side.

Emotions will be running high in the Fiji camp at the moment, as the Bati celebrate their first ever win over a tier-one nation — downing New Zealand 4-2 in a thrilling match in Wellington.

However, as big as that win was, the Fijians will now face a completely different beast when they take on the Kangaroos in the semifinals for the third World Cup in a row.

Australia have shown no signs of slipping up in the World Cup so far, and looked to be in cruise control for the majority of their 46-point demolition of Samoa in the quarterfinals.

While both sides have shown off their attacking flair in the tournament so far — combining for 322 points — perhaps the most impressive statistic for both sides has been their defence, with only 40 points conceded between them and no tries against in their respective quarterfinals.

Friday night's clash in Brisbane might not be as humid as it was in Darwin but it will still carry some affect, and may favour the Kangaroos after Fiji's physical encounter the week before.
 

Semifinal 1: Australia vs. Fiji

MATCH DETAILS

Date — Friday, November 24, 2017

Time — 8:00pm AEDT (7:00pm local time)

Venue — Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia

 

LIVE STREAM AND TV INFORMATION

Live Stream — Channel 7’s https://7live.com.au/ (Australia only)

TV — Click here for a full country-by-country list of TV broadcasts.

 

TEAM NEWS

Australia

 

Fiji

Billy Slater

1

Kevin Naiqama (capt.)

Dane Gagai

2

Suliasi Vunivalu

Will Chambers

3

Taane Milne

Josh Dugan

4

Akuila Uate

Valentine Holmes

5

Marcelo Montoya

Michael Morgan

6

Jarryd Hayne

Cooper Cronk

7

Henry Raiwalui

Aaron Woods

8

Ashton Sims

Cameron Smith (capt.)

9

Apisai Koroisau

David Klemmer

10

Eloni Vunakece

Boyd Cordner

11

Viliame Kikau

Matt Gillett

12

Brayden Williame

Josh McGuire

13

Tui Kamikamica

Wade Graham

14

Joe Lovodua

Jordan McLean

15

Jacob Saifiti

Reagan Campbell-Gillard

16

Junior Roqica

Tyson Frizell

17

Ben Nakubuwai

Reserves (AUS) — Felise Kaufusi, Tom Trbojevic, Josh Mansour, James Maloney

Reserves (FIJI) — James Storer, Salesi Faingaa, Sitiveni Moceidreke, Pio Sokobalavau

 

RLWC RESULTS SO FAR

Australia

Game 1 — Australia 18 def. England 4 at AAMI Park, Melbourne

Game 2 — Australia 52 def. France 6 at GIO Stadium, Canberra

Game 3 — Australia 34 def. Lebanon 0 at Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Quarterfinal — Australia 46 def. Samoa 0 at TIO Stadium, Darwin
 

Fiji

Game 1 — Fiji 58 def. United States 12 at 1300 SMILES Stadium, Townsville

Game 2 — Fiji 72 def. Wales 6 at 1300 SMILES Stadium, Townsville

Game 3 — Fiji 38 def. Italy 10 at GIO Stadium, Canberra

Quarterfinal — Fiji 4 def. New Zealand 2 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington

 

HISTORY

The two nations have faced off five times in the past with the results heavily favoring Australia, who have won all five games by an incredible combined scoreline of 282-10. Interestingly, all five of the matches have been in the World Cup, with Fiji coming up against Australia more than any other nation. This will also be the third straight World Cup that Australia will take on Fiji in the semifinals, with shutout wins to the Kangaroos in the past two tournaments. Fiji have struggled to contain Australia in the past, and will need to be at their defensive best once again if they are to try and make history and down the tournament favourites.

 

KEY MATCHUP — Cameron Smith (Australia) vs. Apisai Koroisau (Fiji)

Defence will be the key focus for Fiji this Friday night, and it's been something the Bati have excelled in so far in the World Cup. Mick Potter's side head in to this match as the second best defensive team in the competition, and have missed just 86 tackles as a team through their four matches. No player is perhaps more important to their defensive structures than hooker Apisau Koriusau, who leads the team with 123 tackles, and his battle against a future Immortal this weekend in Cameron Smith looms as an ominious one. As always, Smith has led the way for the Kangaroos in defence with 104 tackles so far in the World Cup and he'll need to be at his best again this Friday night against a Fiji side that leads the tournament in linebreaks and tries. They might have struggled to get past the Kiwis, but they still had the better chances of the two teams in that game and will fancy their chances this week.

 

STORYLINE TO FOLLOW — Can the Fiji Bati continue making history?

On paper, Fiji qualifying for the semifinals of the World Cup for a third tournament in a row might not seem incredibly amazing, but the way in which they got there this year has been like nothing else. Their victory over a tier-one nation for the first time in history last week was a milestone moment for Fiji, and they'll head in to Friday's game as heavy underdogs with absolutely nothing to lose. Fiji have been arguably the most enjoyable team to watch at the tournament from their free-flowing attacking style laced with emotion from start to finish, and a win from the Bati would truly cap off what's been an incredible World Cup to date. They certainly face an uphill battle and the result is unlikely, but you never know.

 

WHAT THEY SAID

"We are in the business of slaying giants; we got one tonight and it's the biggest test next week. It's as simple as that. We will be preparing well and we know what is coming — we have got a big week ahead of us..." — Fiji five-eighth Jarryd Hayne (via NRL.com)


"He [Viliame Kikau] goes by 'Bill' or 'Kicks'. He is a massive giant and he will be a massive task for us. We are going to have to shut him down because he has been outstanding for them all tournament..." — Australia forward Reagan Campbell-Gillard (via NRL.com)

 

PREDICTION

Both Fiji and Australia head into this match as two of the tournament’s most impressive teams so far, and both would deserve to progress to the final. However, there can be only one winner. While Fiji will be full of confidence after their win over the Kiwis last week, Australia is a different kettle of fish all together and will be much harder to topple. Their 2017 campaign has been built on defense and playing for each other, but Fiji will still need to take it to another level to beat Australia, who thrive under pressure. The Kangaroos are simply the best at staying in the grind and capitalizing on the opportunities that follow. Australia by 18.

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