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Introducing… Fiji

Introducing… Fiji

Fiji

Fiji come into the Autumn Nations Series 12th in the World Rugby rankings and looking to spring a surprise against Guinness Six Nations sides Scotland and Ireland.

The Flying Fijians return to action for the first time since the Pacific Nations Cup in July, where they beat Tonga but lost to Samoa and Australia A.

Their only appearance in last year’s Autumn Nations Series was a pulsating encounter against Wales that eventually finished in a 38-23 defeat.

This year’s opponents Scotland come into their game against Fiji on the back of a tight Test series defeat away in Argentina over the summer.

However, Fiji’s other opposition Ireland are the top ranked team in the world after claiming a famous series win in New Zealand and will go into the Autumn Nations Series full of confidence.

Analysis

Having led 17-3 at half-time against Samoa last time out, losing 23-20 came as a particular blow to Vern Cotter’s side as their opponents claimed the Pacific Nations crown with Fiji only able to add a solitary penalty to their first-half tally.

After the match, captain Waisea Nayacalevu said: “We’re sorely disappointed.

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“Congratulations to the Manu Samoa team for their efforts in the second half. We have to build from that, and from our mistakes. We have talked about it all week, that they are going to come hard, it’s going to be physical. But we let ourselves down and that cost us the game today.”

A similarly disappointing second-half performance saw Fiji lose 32-18 to Australia A in their previous game, a trend which coach Cotter will be hoping to address in the Autumn Nations Series ahead of next year’s World Cup.

However, there were plenty of positives for Fiji to take after they inflicted Tonga’s biggest defeat of the tournament in the opening game, keeping their fellow Pacific Islanders quiet to win 36-0.

Although they finished last year’s Autumn Nations Series winless after defeat to Wales, again, there was much cause for optimism from the performance at Principality Stadium.

The visitors raced into a 13-7 lead after Viliame Mata burst through and released captain Nayacalevu for the opening score as Ben Volavola added the conversion and a penalty.

Wales responded with a try from hooker Ryan Elias before Volavola added another penalty, but the momentum swung in the hosts’ favour on 25 minutes when Eroni Sau was sent off.

Wayne Pivac’s side took the lead for the first time with a converted try from Kieran Hardy, but the Flying Fijians lived up to their billing with a sensational second-half try.

Setareki Tuicuvu took a quick free-kick tap penalty and released Vilimoni Botitu and he gave the try-scoring pass to Nayacalevu, who cantered away for a converted try.

But for all of Fiji’s magic, Wales’ man advantage ultimately told as Elias went over again before Alex Cuthbert, Louis Rees-Zammit and Williams all dotted down to secure the win.

Key Players

Josua Tuisova

Freakishly strong Josua Tuisova, 28, covers both wing and centre, and is a regular for the national team as well as for his club side Lyon.

Beginning his career in sevens, he was a member of the squad which won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

He made his debut for the 15s side against Scotland in 2017 and has since made 19 appearances, scoring 40 points.

Tuisova is most notable for his strong running and power game – he has been deployed at No.8 by Lyon previously – which has earned him nicknames like ‘The Bus’ and ‘Human Bulldozer’ and will be key to Fiji’s hopes of picking up a win in the Autumn Nations Series.

Waisea Nayacalevu

Waisea Nayacalevu

Fiji’s captain, Waisea Nayacalevu, 32, stars at outside centre for Toulon in the Top 14 after making a heart-aching move from Stade Francais, his home for the last eight years, in the summer.

Like many the centre impressed in sevens to begin with, before first joining the 15s squad for the 2012 Pacific Nations Cup, and he made his debut in the same year against Japan, marking the occasion by scoring a try.

Nayacalevu was outstanding in last year’s Autumn Nations Series clash against Wales, scoring two tries, and will hope to reproduce that form in this year’s matches to help his team come out on the right side of the result.

Schedule

Fiji play Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday 5th November before travelling to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium a week later on the 12th November.

November 5 – Scotland v Fiji, Murrayfield, Edinburgh – KO: 1pm

November 12 – Ireland v Fiji, Aviva Stadium, Dublin – KO: 1pm

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