Just One Point to Eject Australia

I think as we’ve seen at this World Cup, to win these games, it’s set-piece first: Sam Matavesi
04 Oct 2023 11:08
Just One Point to Eject Australia
Sam Matavesi. Photo: World Rugby

The Flying Fijians now have the ability to limit their attacking horizons to dig themselves out of trouble as they prepare to clinch a Rugby World Cup quarter-final place against Portugal next weekend in France, says Northampton hooker Sam Matavesi.

Against Georgia, the Flying Fijians had to come back from 0-9 down in the first half to register a 17-12 win after one of their most stuttering performances this year.

The line out malfunctioned which reflected on both Matavesi and the rest of the unit and a repeat against a Portugal side that caused Australia real problems could be costly.

Fiji just needs one more point to ensure a last eight place and eject double former champions Australia from the Cup.

Matavesi said: “People think of Fiji and they think of fast-flowing and scoring tries from our own try line that are incredible, but I think as we’ve seen at this World Cup, to win these games, it’s set-piece first. Our line-out wasn’t good enough, we were losing collisions, but we still won.

Zuriel Togiatama, left and Eroni Mawi in a jovial mood while Tevita Ikanivere does his weights while they train in France on October 4, 2023. Photo: FRU Media

“In the past with Fiji in these games we’ve lost, we haven’t found a way to come back, so to actually come back and win is a massive credit to this team.”

Meanwhile if the Flying Fijians take any points against Portugal on Sunday (Monday Fiji time); Australia will be out.

Australia had beaten Portugal 34-14 in their last pool march while Fiji sneaked past Georgia 17-12. Fiji meets Portugal in the last Pool C match on Sunday (Monday Fiji time).

“We only had one objective this week and that was to be alive and we are still alive,” Australia head coach Edidie Jones said.

Australia now face a frustrating and uncertain week ahead, waiting for the final Pool C matches where their fate will be determined.

Fiji will be favourites to beat Portugal and join Wales in the quarter-finals but there is still a small chance of Australia going through if Portugal were to win and deny the Pacific Islanders a bonus point.

“I’ve never experienced this before so I really don’t know,” Jones said when asked what he felt about the uncertainty ahead.

“We’re anticipating we’ll be in the quarter-finals so we have plans to have three days off and then three days training,” he said.

“We’ll see on Sunday night. Portugal played with plenty of spirit tonight so you never know.”

Flying Fijians flanker Lekima Tagitagivalu training in France on October 3, 2023. Photo: FRU Media

Portugal’s French coach Patrice Lagisquet said he had some regrets after his side scored the opening try through Pedro Bettencourt but then saw the centre sin-binned soon afterwards and conceded three tries while a man down.

That took the game away from them with two thirds of it still to play.

“There’s a mix of frustration and pride. Frustration because at 15 against 15 we would maybe have resisted better,” he said.

“The yellow card hurt us badly; we weren’t able to manage that period.

But it’s a joy to coach this team. They are imperfect, they have shortcomings, but they are so giving, exciting, they play complete rugby.

“It’s great to coach them and I think the players enjoy it and the crowd too.”

Next up it will be Fiji but Lagisquet admitted he is not confident.

“I’m a little worried about our next match against Fiji. They didn’t manage their game against Georgia well and I’m afraid they will want to make up for it against us.”



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