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David vs Goliath clash beckons as Australia take on Fiji
In the lead up to this year's World Cup, Australia were heavily backed to emerge champions. Their performances thus far have emphatically supported this claim. The Kangaroos have only conceded two tries in the four games they have played yet have scored 27 of their own. This week, they again prepare to face off against an opponent they are expected to easily account for. However, Mal Meninga will ensure his troops are not complacent given Fiji's stunning last-start victory against New Zealand. Meninga has an unchanged line-up for Friday night's clash and that is hardly surprising given the masterclass put on by his seventeen players in last week's 46-0 thumping of Samoa. Australia dominated the encounter for the entire eighty minutes and coach Meninga certainly would have been impressed with his side's determination in keeping their opposition scoreless. A similar effort will surely result in victory on Friday night.
Not much was expected of Fiji in the Quarter Finals of this year's World Cup when it was revealed that they would be facing the Kiwis. In fact, following Australia's win over Samoa, some commentators mistakenly assumed in their live coverage that Australia would now be taking on New Zealand, seemingly ruling out any chance the Bati had of progressing through to the Semi Finals. While last week's win was incredible, this week Mick Potter's men face an even greater challenge and will need to improve their ball handling and general attack if they are to trouble Australia. Fiji made 13 errors last week and this hindered them from gaining any real fluency in attack, hence the 4-2 result. The Bati did, however, have plenty of opportunities near New Zealand's try line and were unable to score even one try. Their inability to post points would have worried coach Potter given that this week they face an even more disciplined opposition in the Australians. While last week's fairy tale victory was something special, the Fijians will need to quickly refocus if they are any hope of toppling the Kangaroos.
Last meeting: Kangaroos 64 Fiji 0 (RLWC 2013 Semi Final, London)
Unfortunately for the Fijians, they do not have the best record against the Australians. The Kangaroos have won all five meetings between both sides by a combined margin of 282-10. In their last meeting, Australia defeated Fiji 64-0 in the 2013 Semi Final. Jarryd Hayne scored three tries in that game - now he plays for Fiji. Earlier in the same World Cup, Australia won 34-2 in the pool rounds.
Who to watch: The battle between the fullbacks is a highlight in this Friday night's game. Billy Slater has affirmed himself as the game's greatest current No. 1 in this year's World Cup with scintillating plays in both attack and defence. Thus far, Slater has amassed three tries, four line breaks and 21 tackle busts while his general positioning has been exceptional throughout the whole tournament. His experience and flair has proven vital to the Kangaroos' success.
Kevin Naiqama's emotional commitment to this year's World Cup has certainly been an honour to witness. However, viewers have been equally privileged to witness his immense potential in the fullback position. In the tournament so far, Naiqama has accumulated three tries, three line breaks and 12 tackle busts and has been a significant reason for Fiji's surprising position in Friday night's Semi Final.
The favourite: Despite their shock win last week, Fiji are still friendless in this one with Australia heavily backed to progress through to next week's decider.
My tip: The Bati failed to take countless chances last week against New Zealand and they simply cannot do that against the Kangaroos. Fiji have captured the hearts of viewers throughout this year's World Cup. Although it appears likely that their journey will end at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, the Fijians will not lose any admirers in the process. Australia by 26.
1. Billy Slater 2. Dane Gagai 3. Will Chambers 4. Josh Dugan 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Michael Morgan 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Aaron Woods 9. Cameron Smith 10. David Klemmer 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh Mcguire 14. Wade Graham 15. Jordan McLean 16. Regan Campbell-Gillard 17. Tyson Frizell
1. Kevin Naiqama 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Taane Milne 4. Akuila Uate 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Jarryd Hayne 7. Henry Raiwalui 8. Ashton Sims 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Eloni Vunakece 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Brayden Wiliame 13. Tui Kamikamica 14. Joe Lovodua 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Junior Roqica 17. Ben Nakubuwai