RUGBY WORLD CUP 2015
Thursday 24 September, 1.45am
Where their pool rivals failed, Australia will aim to succeed and open up their campaign with a real statement of intent. They have a great opportunity to do so, as they face a Fijian side that proved they are dangerous but also exuded a lot of energy from playing just five days prior in the tournament opener.
In both 2003 and 2007 Fiji’s opening two games had a four-day turnaround. In 03 they lost their opener against France before scraping to a one point victory against USA and in 07 they won their opener against Japan before going on to beat Canada by 13 points. Significantly the difference this year is that after an opening loss instead of playing a minnow they take on an Australian side fresh from winning the 2015 Rugby Championship. The Wallabies have shown significant improvement under Michael Cheika this year. After just one win in their first four with Cheika at the helm in the autumn of 2014, they have won four of their five in 2015 including a victory over the All Blacks. Cheika is likely to field a strong line-up as well given the former New South Wales coach will have the option to rotate his squad in the next fixture against Uruguay before taking on England and Wales.
The Aussies have a fantastic pool record of late, winning 11 of their last 12 with an average winning margin of 50 points and never conceding more than eight points in the first half. One of those victories included a 55-12 victory over Fiji in France 2007. Fiji incidentally haven’t beaten Australia since 1954 and they have met three times this century with that World Cup result eight years ago being Fiji’s best effort. They lost by 46 and 49 points on the other two occasions.
Fiji’s expansive and attacking style of rugby has often proved to make them awkward opponents for northern hemisphere sides, as illustrated on Friday night. However, the same can’t be said for when they come up against the southern hemisphere giants as evidenced by 25 straight defeats dating back to 1961. More recently they have taken a few thumpings with just one of their last ten losses being by a margin of fewer than 40 points.
Fiji proved themselves to be no mugs against England but given the five day turnaround and their woeful record against the southern hemisphere’s Big Three we expect the Wallabies to exceed the host’s 24 point margin of victory.