Rugby World Cup 2023: Fijians surprise by beating Australia

Victorious over England at Twickenham in a warm-up match, the Fijians moved forward with confidence when it came time to compete in the World Cup

Rugby World Cup 2023: Fijians surprise by beating Australia

Victorious over England at Twickenham in a warm-up match, the Fijians moved forward with confidence when it came time to compete in the World Cup. But on Sunday September 17, the Flying Fijians achieved a performance of a completely different caliber. In a Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne having taken up their cause, the Pacific players achieved the feat of bringing down Australia (22-15), two world titles on the clock to get back into the race to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Beaten by the Welsh during their first meeting despite a comeback in the final minutes (32-26), Semi Radradra and his teammates once again experienced an intense end to the match. But this time, it was they who resisted the opposing pressure to achieve their first victory against the Wallabies since… 1954.

Decisive, this meeting was also particularly special for certain players in the Australian ranks, like centers Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete, both born in Fiji. An example of the “looting” carried out for many years by the Wallabies and New Zealand in the diaspora of other Pacific nations (Fiji, Samoa and Tonga), and which World Rugby, the international federation, is trying to compensate for by allowing opt for another sporting nationality later in their career.

While waiting to change - perhaps - their crests in the future, the "Fijians of Australia" experienced a strange moment when they faced the cibi (dance performed before kick-off, in the same way way as the haka of the New Zealanders) of their opponents. But nothing to upset Mark Nawaqanitawase. Also from the Fiji Islands, the winger was the first to stand out by surprising the defense with a quickly played touch before going to flatten without opposition (24th).

Fijians resist Wallabies comeback

“We have to be able to win the combat phases,” confided coach Eddie Jones on Friday, during a pre-match press conference. When the transition phases come, we must be two steps ahead of them, because they excel in this area. The fight will be interesting, they have a very big pack and we want to challenge them in this sector. » Problem for the Wallabies, although their players had taken the advantage in the score, they had difficulty applying the instructions of the ex-hooker.

The Australians even suffered throughout the entire match, especially as they were handicapped by the last minute withdrawal of their captain and second row Will Skelton due to a “slight strain” in his calf. The colossus from La Rochelle (2 m 03, 145 kg) watched helplessly from the stands as the Fijians performed, led by their scrum half Simione Kuruvoli, very active in the game and decisive against the poles (fourteen points on the foot) .

Dominant, the Fijians definitely widened the gap in the second half thanks to a quick try from Lyon center Josua Tuisova (43rd). But it was ultimately in a refined style, ultimately far from their usual madness that the Pacific players held on at the end of the match, despite a late try from Australian fullback Ben Donaldson (68th). Before challenging Georgia and Portugal, on paper the two weakest teams in the group, Fiji are now level with Australia (6 points) in the standings, and can begin to dream very seriously of a first qualification for the quarter-finals of a World Cup since 2007.