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Preview: Wales v Fiji

Preview: Wales v Fiji

Wales can secure a place in the last eight with victory in Oita. ©Inpho

  • Wales take on Fiji in Oita looking to clinch a place in the quarter-finals
  • Fiji famously beat Wales at the 2007 World Cup to reach the quarter-finals
  • Warren Gatland has made two changes to his team from the side that beat Australia

When you think of Wales and Fiji at Rugby World Cups, the first game that comes to mind is that memorable pool match in Nantes in 2007.

On a sunny day on the French Atlantic coast, the two teams produced some breath-taking rugby, with Fiji running out 38-34 winners to book their place in the quarter-finals at the expense of their opponents.

That game signalled a turning point for Wales, who appointed Warren Gatland before the year was out, and have gone on to enjoy their greatest run of success since the 1970s.

Defeat in Oita on Wednesday would not have the same consequences, with Wales two wins from two and with a game against Uruguay still to come.

Still, victory over the Fijians would clinch a place in the quarter-finals, and put Wales in pole position for top spot in Pool D.

To do so, Gatland has made just two changes to his team, giving Ross Moriarty and James Davies their chance in the back row.

They are up against a Fiji team who have changed just one from the bonus-point success against Georgia, Bill Mata returning in place of Peceli Yato in the back row.

There is no questioning the firepower at Fiji’s disposal, it has been apparent both in defeat against Australia, and victory over Georgia.

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Wales though, have shown that they can weather even the most ferocious storms – as they did against Australia – and they will be gunning to avoid a repeat of 2007 so they can start preparing for the quarter-finals.

Wales v Fiji, Oita, Wednesday October 9, Kick-off 10:45AM (BST)

What they said

Wales coach Warren Gatland:

“When Fiji get some confidence and belief they are incredibly dangerous, and they were really strong in that second half against Georgia.

“They have got some real threats, and we have just got to make sure we focus on ourselves. It’s going to be a tight game. They are dangerous, so we’ve got to make sure we shut their space down and shut down their time on their ball.

“Shaun (Edwards, Wales defence coach) has been speaking to the players about putting in an 80-minute performance defensively. We haven’t done that yet, even though we have been good defensively.

“One of the pleasing things from the first two games (against Georgia and Australia) is how we well we’ve started. Our starts have been exceptional, and it is important that we start well on Wednesday and hopefully take a little bit of that excitement away from Fiji.”

Fiji coach John McKee:

“We’ve looked at Wales closely and we can see what a strong side they are around the breakdown. One of the closest battles will be around the breakdown.

“Wales certainly look to attack the ball on the carriers and either try to win turnovers or slow the ball up. That is going to be a critical area for us, firstly to make sure we get good continuity and that secondly we are effective enough to get quick ball.”

Key battle: James Davies v Semi Kunatani

There are plenty of options for this one, with intriguing match-ups all over the park, but we’ll focus on a pair of Olympians. James Davies finally gets his chance to show what he can do and he will be up against a man he faced in Rio in 2016. Semi Kunatani was a superstar on the Sevens circuit and key contributor to the Fiji team that won Olympic gold. Since then he has taken a little time to adapt to XVs, first at Toulouse and now at Harlequins. He is a menace with ball in hand though, and his individual head-to-head with Davies will be particularly interesting.

James Davies will start at openside flanker against Fiji. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Match Notes

  • Wales and Fiji are meeting for the third successive time at a World Cup. After their shock defeat in 2007, Wales have won each of the last two encounters in 2011 and 2015.
  • Alun Wyn Jones will draw level with Gethin Jenkins as the Welsh player with the most World Cup caps. Jones will make his 18th World Cup appearance.
  • Jones will overtake George Gregan and move into fourth place in the all-time list of most-capped players when he plays against Fiji. Including British and Irish Lions appearances he will move to 140, one behind Brian O’Driscoll, two behind Sergio Parisse, and eight behind Richie McCaw.
  • Fiji’s team features four players who started the Olympic Rugby Sevens final in Rio in 2016. James Davies was playing for Great Britain that day and won a silver medal.
  • Teams

Wales: 15. Liam Williams, 14. George North, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Josh Adams, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Gareth Davies, 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Jake Ball, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6. Josh Navidi, 7. James Davies, 8. Ross Moriarty

Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Rhys Carre, 18. Dillon Lewis, 19. Aaron Shingler, 20. Aaron Wainwright, 21. Tomos Williams, 22. Rhys Patchell, 23. Owen Watkin

Fiji: 15. Kini Murimurivalu, 14. Josua Tuisova, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu, 12. Levani Botia, 11. Semi Radradra, 10. Ben Volavola, 9. Frank Lomani, 1. Campese Ma’afu, 2. Sam Matavesi, 3. Manasa Saulo, 4. Tevita Cavubati, 5. Leone Nakarawa, 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c), 7. Semi Kunatani, 8. Viliame Mata

Replacements: 16. Mesulame Dolokoto, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Peni Ravai, 19. Api Ratuniyarawa, 20. Peceli Yato, 21. Nikola Matawalu, 22. Jale Vatubua, 23. Josh Matavesi