Australia v Fiji - Green and Gold Rugby
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Australia v Fiji

Australia v Fiji

If you look at the cold hard facts this should be a dead easy win for the wallabies. The third ranked side in the world against the tenth. A southern hemisphere giant against a pacific island minnow. But like most things things just aren’t that simple. 

So let me tell you a story that Reg Roberts reminded me of on the Green and Gold Rugby Podcast.

How Fiji saved Australian Rugby

Reg could tell this beautifully, Lee Grant might be able to give you a first hand account. Both could tell it better than me. 65 years ago in 1952 the Australian Rugby Union was flat broke. Sound familiar? The year before the All Blacks had toured to disappointing crowds and the ARU needed someone to help fill the piggy bank. The thought of stumping up for a team to make the long trip out from Europe so they looked a little closer to home for a crowd pleaser. Rumours started reaching the ears of people in the know about Fijian rugby and the exceptional way they played. So amongst fears of a loss and against a 6500 pound cost to host the team a tour was organised, then cancelled, and organised again. There was a prediction of a 2000 pound loss which would have broken the ARU for good. It was backs to the wall and everything on the line

The Fijians drew crowds immediately. they played in Queensland first and word spread quickly. They drew 17000 for a game against North Harbour and then nearly 40000 for a match against NSW at the SCG. The tour had broken even before a test had been played. The first test was played in atrocious conditions and only drew 13000 punters. Australia won 15-9.  The second test, again at the SCG, drew a crowd of 42000 and took 5000 pounds at the gate and most importantly was a rousing match with the leading changing hand several time. Fiji eventually won 17-15.

That’s the short of it. I urge you to read the full story on line. Just google Fiji 1952 tour or ring Reg on 04…..

But when it comes right down to it WE OWE FIJI! Everything to do with Australian rugby was built on that 1952 series. Fiji saved us and all we have to do to pay them back is watch them play.


head to heads???

This is the bit where we usually pick a few key positions and talk about the players form. But that’s where I run into a problem. I know sweet fannies about this Fijian team. Except for Ben Volavola so…

volavola wallabies fiji

Foley v Volavola

Volavola is a ex-Waratah, ex-Cusaders flyhalf. Foley is the current Waratahs and Australian flyhalf. Foley should win this battle in a cantor.

 

Okay that’s that done.

 

What do I know a little about?

The Australians

It’s in the forwards that the real shake ups have happened. Two young props, a young second rower and a flanker on debut. All have talent but none are the finished item. Mixed in with them are old heads in key positions. Polota-Nau, Carter, Hooper and Higginbotham have all been there before and in great form. To me there seems to be an imbalance in the backrow but I haven’t seen enough of Hanigan to be sure.

The backs have all been about the team for a while except for Karmichael Hunt who gets a deserved call up all be it in the unfamiliar position of inside centre. Hunt does play defensively at 12 for the Reds so that part of the game should be know trouble at all. Attack will be a entirely different ball game but he has played at 12 and at ten in top level rugby before and with seasoned vets all around him I can’t see this as a problem.

Samu Kerevi passes to Karmichael Hunt

Samu Kerevi passes to Karmichael Hunt

 Fiji

Fiji have had mixed results. They defeated  Japan in November 38-12.  They lost to England 58-12 and a baabaas side 40-7 in the week before that game. In June they lost to Georgia but won games against Samoa and Tonga.


Overall

I’m not going disrespect Fiji after all they have done for us but we should win this easily. But the Fijians are an unknown quantity and our super rugby form has been atrocious so anything could happen.

Australia by 17!

Australia

1. Tom Robertson (7 Tests)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (68 Tests)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (9 Tests)
4. Sam Carter (13 Tests)
5. Adam Coleman (9 Tests)
6. Ned Hanigan*
7. Michael Hooper (c) (65 Tests)
8. Scott Higginbotham (32 Tests)
9. Will Genia (75 Tests)
10. Bernard Foley (42 Tests)
11. Henry Speight (11 Tests)
12. Karmichael Hunt*
13. Tevita Kuridrani (45 Tests)
14. Dane Haylett-Petty (14 Tests)
15. Israel Folau (52 Tests)

Replacements
Once again

our coaches

can’t pick

a team.

Fiji

1 Campese Maáfu
2 Sunia Koto
3 Peni Ravai
4 Tevita Cavubati
5 Leone Nakarawa
6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu
7 Naulia Dawai
8 Akapusi Qera (c)
9 Nikola Matawalu
10 Ben Volavola
11 Vereniki Goneva
12 Jale Vatubua
13 Albert Vulivuli
14 Timoci Nagusa
15 Kini Murimurivalu

Replacements
16 Tuapati Talemaitoga
17 Joeli Veitayaki
18 Kalivati Tawake
19 Api Ratuniyarawa
20 Viliame Mata
21 Nemani Nagusa
22 Seurpepeli Vularika
23 Benito Masilevu

  • dsb

    Wet weather rugby?

  • Strip Chief

    Great story and recognition for Fiji Rugby. Hope its a cracker but I’ll always cheer for the underdogs :)

  • Huw Tindall

    Obviously a win is what we want but I’d like to see a few things:
    – 80 minute performance,
    – respect the opposition…take the easy 3 points early…earn the right to play expansive rugby,
    – the players really ripping in and showing as much ticker as Hooper and Hunt,
    – good solid simple rugby with the basic skills

    If we do the above there is a enough talent in the team to really turn it on.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Yep I hear you Huw. Skills and defence is what I am looking for. As Nutta always says “Meat first, then the gravy!”

      • Nicholas

        Agree completely. Even if we only score one try but play well, I’ll be happy.

    • Point two is most important I think. The thought of Rocky Elsom turning down shot after shot against the Samoans still gives me nightmares.

      • Brisneyland Local

        You are not on your pat malone there!

  • AardvarkOz

    Great preview, but now I’m even more frustrated that I don’t have Foxtel! What happened to John Howard’s promise that all matches of national significance would be available on free to air?!
    Anyway, any advice on how to watch the game?

    • drrea81

      It is on FTA on channel 10

    • Brisneyland Local

      Have checked it is on Channel 10, and 10 HD commencing at 2:30 pm AEST. With the standard half hour of Gordon Bray and Matty Burke dribbling shit for a while.

      • Missing Link

        Gordon Bray Drinking Game will be fun – each time the name of a private school is mentioned, you drink

        • Brisneyland Local

          Ouch! I will be shit faced before kick off then!

        • Mart

          Or the sporting achievements of a sibling

        • jamie

          You tryna kill us?

        • Leylani Mataitoga

          nice comments but when will you guys come and play on our home soil.You drag years to play a single match and when its a strong Fijian side tier one nations tend to cancelled test matches and provided if Fiji rugby is developed and funded locally with all Fijian cream of players playing locally, my dear it will be the same as the sevens rugby…Fiji dominating all the way.

      • Bakkies

        The ARU carries on about not having enough money yet they hold these matches outside of prime time hours.

    • Missing Link

      love or hate John Howard, you have to respect the guy for his genuine passion for the Wallabies and Australian sport in general

      • Brisneyland Local

        My most common memory is Little Johnny out walking in his wallabies tracksuit every morning!

        • Bakkies

          The best advertising the Wallabies could get.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Well this game is a win win for me is some regards. I love Fiji! I go to Fiji every year! I plan on retiring in Fiji. I am a member of the Nadroga stallions! I adore their culture, their landscapes and most of all their passion and style of playing rugby.
    So for me this is a sad but happy game.
    The big risk to the Wallabies is the potential injuries. Fijian games are brutal, bruising encounters. Provided the Wobbs can stay disciplined (and there is no real indication that this will be the case) we should eventually take this one out.
    For Fiji with the inclusion of some of their Sevens players, we should see some more serious speed in attack, and quick committment to the break down.
    Beers are in the fridge, wine purchased, kava bowl cleaned!
    Vinaka vaka levu!

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Mate I’m expecting a 20 point win. While not sure how Hanigan will go as I think he’s a bit inexperienced the team looks good.

  • RugbyReg

    Nice work Sully. I’d love to think that sometime soon we will head back to Fiji and play a test or two.

    We’ve gained so much from Fiji rugby in this country that it’d be nice to return the favour. And I don’t just mean giving them our coaches (John McKee, Peter Ryan, Damian Marsh).

    • Brisneyland Local

      RR, I spend a lot of time over there, and the Fijians love the Wallabies. They adore them. Even when we play crap! They are more loyal to them then most Wallabies fans, myself included!
      When there is a Wobbs game on you can always see them crowded around a tv, hundreds of them. I helped getting a cable connection to the village we visit. It is there favourite thing! And sitting there watching the game with them, having Kava and fiji bitter! I cant think of many things I enjoy more in life!

  • Joe Blow

    I’m not sure about the balance in the back row either. It will depend on how Hanigan plays. He will probably need to be tight and just join the tight five in getting on top of the Fijians physically. I reckon Timani at 6 would be a better fit if he can stay busy.
    These 3 tests are all about piecing together a pack that can dominate at the set piece and at the breakdown. We are going to need a competitive pack for the RC to set a platform for Foley, KB and Folau

  • juswal

    Given an equal forward pack, Ben Volavola would be Foley’s equal. Good organiser, thinks ahead, quick off the mark, beautiful passing, strong punt, can kick match-winning goals from the sideline. He steered Southern Districts in their best Shute Shield years, 2012 to 2015 (including a couple of grand finals). Under Cheika at the Tahs, he got no game time. The Crusaders signed him when Dan Carter departed, but he couldn’t hold the premier spot. He’ll probably never show his best playmaking ability at Super and Test levels because he doesn’t operate behind a dominant pack.

    • Braveheart81

      Oh please. He hasn’t shown his ability to play consistently well at any point. His defence is abominable and he is very error prone. There’s a reason he hasn’t managed to cement a starting Super Rugby spot anywhere.

      • juswal

        ‘Abominable’ and ‘very error prone’ are just hyperbole. People say the same things about Foley and Cooper and every other Australian five-eighth, and it’s worthless.

        Cheap shots are easy; informed opinions need more effort.

  • Ads

    Looks like the bench is out:

    16. Stephen Moore (117 Tests)
    17. Toby Smith (4 Tests)
    18. Sekope Kepu (77 Tests)
    19. Rory Arnold (9 Tests)
    20. Richard Hardwick*
    21. Joe Powell*
    22. Quade Cooper (67 Tests)
    23. Reece Hodge (10 Tests)

    • Mart

      It’s a good bench. Still think Moore is behind Latu

    • Brisneyland Local

      Ads that is a pretty good bench for Aus.

      • Ads

        Yep not bad again. No phipps. I reckon Latu is a bit hard done by, and question the merits of Hardwick Vs Timani on the bench, but maybe he a niggle. All things considered though Cheik has done alright.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Lets see the game plan now!

        • jamie

          Phipps is injured IIRC. And Hardwick is a fetcher and Cheik doesn’t mind a fetcher.

        • Ads

          Thanks Jamie, didn’t know re phipps injury. Yep, I see Hardwick as a fetcher, but Hooper is likely to play 80, especially as captain. I guess that makes Hardwick a bit odd Vs Timani who could cover 6/8 was all I meant. Anyway, we will see how they go!

        • jamie

          I don’t see the 7 role being as important anymore.

          As long as you have a fetcher in your forward pack (at least one good one, or multiple), your 7 doesn’t have to ruck all day long. It’s more about a pack than the players themselves in said pack.

      • Adrian

        The cynic in me sees Moore coming on mid second half, and Hooper going off…so that Moore can look like the captain of a winning team.
        BTW, I know Foley’s the vc, so he might have to go off too!

        • Brisneyland Local

          Well sending Foley off is only going to increase our chances of winning! ;-)

        • Ads

          Given the crap season so far, I’d take Moore coming on as the captain of a winning team!

    • Adrian

      I don’t quite think it’s the A team, all considered, but it’s not the B team either. A- I’d say

  • formerflanker

    “Fijian games are brutal, bruising encounters.”
    Yup.

  • BarneySF

    One thing we’ve never been good at is putting sides away. Plus we usually start slow and rusty, so expect there to be some patchy skills. Usually ends up a scrappy win – with us switching off at some point. Still, love watching the Fijians play – **anyone remember Fiji v France WC 87?! Still have the Betamax tape somewhere…..

  • Adrian

    Good team,all in form, unlike this time last year. There are about 3 I wouldn’t have picked, but the guys I would have picked are on the bench.

    I think, … (or hope) that Cheika will get Coleman, Hooper, Genia, Foley, Kurandrani and Folau off as soon as it’s safe to do so, to avoid injuries

  • Nick

    Thanks for the write-up. I called the Reg hotline but all I got was heavy breathing…

Rugby
@Only1Sully

Just another Rugby tragic. Shane "Sully" Sullivan has been in man love with the game since high school in the 70's. He inflicts his passion on family and anyone who will listen. He can't guarantee unbiased opinion but he can tell you the Reds are Awesome! To read non-rugby content head to http://www.onesully.com.au

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