By John Davidson, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 2/11/13
Australia will tackle two former Aussie internationals and a clutch of NRL stars when they face Fiji in St Helens on Saturday.
Fiji will be captained by former Queensland and Australian legend Petero Civoniceva and also contain NSW and Australian flyer Akila Uate. Coached by Aussie Rick Stone, the Bati also have a host of NRL and Australian-born players in their rankslike the three Sims brothers.
Mixed emotions might also be felt by Jarryd Hayne, the Kangaroo who will start on the wing and was one of Fiji’s key stars at the 2008 World Cup.
This will be Fiji’s big chance to take it to the heavyweight Australians and make a statement. The Bati were physical and clinical against Ireland, disposing of the Wolfhounds 32-14 in front of a parochial Fijian crowd at Rochdale. However they shouldn’t have as much of the home support at Langtree Park, home of Super League’s famous St Helens club.
Currently coached by Nathan Brown, St Helens are renowned as being historically one of England’s top clubs and this Merseyside town is proud rugby league country.
St Helens the club has been around since 1873 and as this World Cup match is the only one the town is hosting, expect a large and passionate crowd. The 18,000 capacity Langtree Park should be filled to the rafters.
On match-day St Helens council is staging an ‘Australia Day’ event at St Mary’s Market and visitors are being encouraged to contribute to an Aussie-themed communal artwork. There is free green and gold face painting and students from local primary schools will be singing the Australian and Fijian anthems as a choir before kick-off.
On the field, Fiji face some task.
Yes a few of the Kangaroos are being rested from this match, such as Billy Slater, Brent Tate, Cooper Cronk and Greg Bird. But when you have replacements like Hayne, Michael Jennings, Daly Cherry-Evans and Boyd Cordner, you know things won’t be easy for the Bati.
Inglis will start at fullback and Cordner and Josh Papalli will be making their Australian debuts. Those two rookies will be keen to impress, along with Cherry-Evans who wants to cement a staring spot. With the England match showing some rustiness, the Kangaroos will want to iron out their kinks and fine tune their combinations.
Things could get ugly for the Fijians. While the Bati were very good against Ireland, Australia is several classes above. Fiji’s defence will need to be airtight, they will need to compete for the full 80 minutes and make few errors to have any chance of pulling off a massive upset.
Boosting the Pacific nation is the experience held by the likes of Uate and Civoniceva, as well as veterans Ashton Sims, Tariq Sims and Wes Naiqama. Fiji must be careful to not give away cheap penalties and to keep their aggression under control against a potentially lethal Australian outfit.
Even if they do, their chances of a result are very limited. The Kangaroos have too many match-winners and too much depth, and should win this match by at least 20 points. I expect Fiji need to be strong and to stay with the Aussies until the second half when the men in green and gold start to wear them down.
Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta Eels)
Josh Morris (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
Michael Jennings (Sydney Roosters)
Darius Boyd (Newcastle Knights)
Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland Cowboys)
Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)
Matthew Scott (North Queensland Cowboys)
Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm)
James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys)
Luke Lewis (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders)
Nate Myles (Gold Coast Titans)
Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters)
Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers)
Andrew Fifita (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
Paul Gallen (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
Cooper Cronk (Melbourne Storm)
Corey Parker (Brisbane Broncos)
Vitale Junior Roqica
Sisa Ledua Waqa