By John Davidson, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 19/11/13
A repeat of the 2008 World Cup semi-final and the second Group A match at this World Cup will see the Kangaroos take on Fiji again for the right to play at Old Trafford.
Wembley will be the scene for this blockbuster clash.
Fiji, surprising many, convincingly overcame the Samoans at Warrington to reach the semis. They were efficient and impressive against Samoa, showing real improvement and conviction in their game plan. It was a better performance but regardless, the Bati are up against it with the Australians. History is not on their side.
The Kangaroos beat them 34-2 in St Helens two weeks ago and were triumphant 52-0 back in Sydney five years ago.
One of Fiji’s stars on that day was Jarryd Hayne, who should be opposing them in the centres this Saturday in London. And prop Petero Civoniceva is another who has switched sides, he was wearing green and gold in 2008 but will captain the Bati against Australia this weekend.
Fiji have several survivors from that semi-final five years ago who will play at Wembley such as Wes Naiqama, Daryl Millard, Akuila Uate, Aaron Groom, Aston Sims and Jason Bukuya.
On paper it is a stronger Fijian team now than it was in then. Kevin Naiqama has been very good at fullback. Sisa Waqa and Marika Koroibete add power and speed in the backline, while Tariq Sims and retiring legend Petero give grunt and graft up front.
The Bati will be more competitive than they were five years ago, also with Newcastle Knights assistant Rick Stone as their coach, but they face a monumental task.
Fiji might have improved but so have the Kangaroos from the squad that surrended the World Cup to New Zealand.
Billy Slater will be out, but Tim Sheens has so many options in the No 1 jumper. The likely solution will see Greg Inglis move down to cover Slater and Brent Tate partnering Hayne in the centres.
Daly Cherry-Evans provides cover off the bench and there is strength across the forward pack in every position.
Australia scored all manner of tries against the Tomahawks, from one-metre efforts to 80-metre movements, and they will be potent on Saturday. Restricting their playmakers, particularly Cameron Smith, and strangling their attack is crucial.
If Fiji can cut down the options of the big Maroon three of Smith, Cronk and Thurston, they will give themselves half a chance.
Aaron Groom had a blinder against Samoa and he will need to have another at Wembley. His and the kicking game of Daryl Millard will be vital.
If the Bati can kick well, remain disciplined and take any limited opportunity that get in attack, they might trouble the Aussies for a bit.
However, I just can’t see this Australian team being beaten on Saturday.
The famous Wembley Stadium, the most important and prestigious sports arena in Britain, is the stage for this game. Nestled in a corner of north-west London, Wembley is a special place. Built in 1923, then demolished in 2003 and rebuilt and reopened in 2007, it holds 90,000 spectators. The second largest stadium in all of Europe, it is expected to be close to capacity for the semis, which would make it even more of a special day.
Too many weapons, too much firepower and too much footballing-smarts. The Kangaroos to win by 28 points.