Won’t Feel Divided Loyalties Playing Against Fijians

Tevita Kuridrani admits it will feel strange playing against his countrymen when he lines up for Australia against Fiji in their opening game of the World Cup in Cardiff next
13 Sep 2015 10:31
Won’t Feel Divided Loyalties Playing Against Fijians
Fijian-born Tevita Kuridrani. Photo: The Australian Sports

Tevita Kuridrani admits it will feel strange playing against his countrymen when he lines up for Australia against Fiji in their opening game of the World Cup in Cardiff next Saturday, but he will not feel any divided loyalties.

Kuridrani, who is almost certain to start at outside centre for the Wallabies, was born in Suva before moving with his family to Australia in 2007.

A powerful ball-runner, Kuridrani, 24, made his Test debut off the bench against the All Blacks in 2013, but has since been a regular in the gold No 13 jersey.

“I’m pretty excited to be going up against my Fijian brothers,” said Kuridrani, who still speaks with a strong Fijian accent. “I’m really looking forward to playing against my cousin, (Nemani) Nadolo. Everyone in Fiji will be watching the game.

“It will be a little bit strange, but once you get on the field you play for who you are representing. I’m representing Australia. We can be (Fijian) brothers off the field.”

Kuridrani knows only three members of the Fijian World Cup squad — Nadolo, former NSW Waratahs playmaker Ben Volavola and No 10 Josh Matavesi — but he knows what to expect from the Flying Fijians.

“They play a very expansive game,” Kuridrani said. “They can play from anywhere. Our defence needs to be really good because it is unpredictable what they are going to do.”

Kuridrani nominated Nadolo as Fiji’s biggest threat following his blockbusting performances on the wing for the Crusaders in Super Rugby, although he could play centre for Fiji, directly marking his cousin.

“He will be their biggest threat,” Kuridrani said. “He is a very dangerous player. In the wide channels he is their biggest threat.”

Countries such as Australia have been accused of “trawling” the Pacific Islands for talent. Along with Kuridrani, the Wallabies have another Fijian-born World Cup squad member, Henry Speight, while Taqele Naiyaravoro was capped against the US last Sunday, capturing his eligibility.

Nevertheless, Fiji, who meet England in the opening game of the tournament, are still expected to field a competitive team capable of causing an upset. Former Wallabies flanker George Smith has predicted Australia and Fiji will advance from the “Pool of Death” to the quarter-finals ahead of England and Wales.

“Not only us. They (Fiji) will be thinking about an upset against all the big teams,” Kuridrani said. “We will stick to our game plan and play how we want to play and we should be all right.

“I wouldn’t count them out in the pool. Like I said, they are unpredictable. Like the 2007 World Cup they competed well. If any team takes them lightly, there can be a fair chance of an upset.”

Kuridrani said the Wallabies were well-prepared for the World Cup following their two-week camp at Notre Dame University in Indiana, which included the Test against the US.

“It was pretty good. A good experience,” Kuridrani said. “This is my first time in America. Notre Dame, one of the best universities. I really like the facilities. I’m enjoying my stay here.

“We have trained hard the last two weeks and we have two more training sessions left before we head to England. Everyone is fit. No one is injured. Everyone is ready to pay in the World Cup.”

At 196cm and 102kg, Kuridrani’s size makes him a point of difference in the Wallabies backline and his strong ball-carries will be a key component of their bid to win the World Cup.

“My goal is to perform at my best in every game and keep improving in every game I play,” Kuridrani said. “This is the best tournament. For me it is just to go out there and perform at my best.

“It was a big achievement for me to reach my goal of making a team to go to the World Cup and it will be a bonus for me if we win the World Cup.”



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