New Zealand v Fiji preview

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New Zealand Men v Fiji Men Sunday 6:30am at MKM Stadium, Hull

Will it be a case of Déjà vu for the Kiwis?

The third quarter final is a re-match of the corresponding match from the 2017 Rugby League World Cup as the New Zealand Kiwis go head to head with the Fiji Bati at MKM Stadium in Hull.

New Zealand will be looking for revenge in this quarter-final match-up with Fiji, after the Bati eliminated the Kiwis from the tournament on their home turf in 2017. It's been a tournament full of successes on the scoreboard for the Kiwis with resounding victories in their pool matches over Lebanon, Jamaica, and Ireland. Although they've been largely convincing in their score-lines, it's fair to say the Kiwis are yet to fully hit their strides in this tournament.

They've yet to play their strongest 17, as Jahrome Hughes has battled injury and missed the first two matches in addition to Michael Maguire's mysterious left centre position with Marata Niukore, Sebastian Kris and Briton Nikora given an opportunity to stake their claims for selection. While they have been able to run away with victory off the back of some great individual plays, the challenge is finding that cohesion on the eve of a blockbuster semi-final against Australia should they be successful in this fixture.

To beat Fiji, you'll have to beat the opposition at their own game, the Bati possess a strong power game which helped them to victory in their final two pool matches. With arguably the strongest forward pack in the tournament, the Kiwis will have to batter Fiji into submission to allow their classy backs to finish the job. They will be without the services of Jared Waerea-Hargraves who was suspended for a clumsy high shot against Ireland, so expect Moses Leota to fill the void on the interchange.

For Fiji, it's been a tournament full of challenges. They lost their coach Joe Rabele before the tournament after falling ill upon arrival and have since been controlled by assistant Wise Kativerata. The Bati have also been dealing with a horror run of injuries with many stars withdrawing before the tournament got underway and several of the 24 injured in warm-up matches. But, despite that, Fiji were the second best team in Group B by a fair margin.

Fiji got here with wins over Italy and Scotland. Although last start was one that should raise some eye-brows. Fiji were incredibly complacent in their performance and although they had too much class for the Braveheart's in the final analysis, they were ill-disciplined and kept Scotland in the match for far longer than they should've. That being said, Sunia Turuva has had an amazing tournament, starting Fiji's sets off in great ball territory.

Additionally, the Bati have won the ruck convincingly in these last two matches, something that will be far more challenging against the Kiwis. That coupled with a strong kicking game will allow the Bati to compete with the Kiwis for a large portion of this fixture. Fiji have only gotten better as the tournament has gone on, and if they can ruffle the Kiwis up early, then this one could go the same way as it did in 2017.

Last meeting: RLWC Quarter Finals 2017 - New Zealand 2 Fiji 4

Who to watch: If there's one man that will create plenty of scoring opportunities for the Kiwis, then all eyes will be on Jahrome Hughes. Hughes was the centre of everything in his first appearance of this tournament scoring two tries, on top of setting up three others. His hands were involved in everything the Kiwis did right. His partnership with Dylan Brown as well as his combinations firing will be the key if the Kiwis are to advance and take on Australia in the semis.

For the Bati, the focus comes back onto Apisai Koroisau. Apisai is one of the few survivors that defeated the Kiwis back in 2017 and it's clear for everyone to see that he's a far superior player. Look for his creativity out of acting half to fool the New Zealand defence and allow for the likes of Kikau and Turuva to create second phase play. If Fiji can control possession and beat the Kiwis up the middle, they'll be one step closer to a semi final appearance. 

The favourite: New Zealand are heavily favoured to advance through to the semi-finals.

My tip: Whilst Fiji have won the sole meeting of these two nations, it's just simply hard to ignore the talent on the other side of the pendulum. Joey Manu and Jahrome Hughes were at their scintillating best, and with the Bati having some moments where they can clock off defensively, it could pose trouble just like in the match against Australia. Fiji will be keep fighting until the very end, so it's a quarter final that will go down to the wire. New Zealand by 8.


1. Joseph Manu 5. Jordan Rapana 4. Peta Hiku 21. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Dylan Brown 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 10. James Fisher-Harris 12. Kenny Bromwich 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 13. Joseph Tapine 11. Isaiah Papali'i 14. Kieran Foran 17. Briton Nikora 20. Isaac Liu 23. Scott Sorensen

1. Sunia Turuva 24. Vuate Karawalevu 4. Kevin Naiqama 19. Semi Valemei 2. Maika Sivo 9. Apisai Koroisau 7. Brandon Wakeham 3. Korbin Sims 14. Penioni Tagituimua 13. Tui Kamikamica 22. Siua Wong 12. Viliame Kikau 11. Taniela Sadrugu 20. Henry Raiwalui 16. Lamar Manuel-Liolevave 10. Ben Nakubuwai 17. King Vuniyayawa 5. Mitieli Vulikijapani


Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Belinda Sharpe, Marcus Griffiths; Video Referees: Tom Grant;



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