PREVIEW: Australia v Fiji

(Image credit - NRL Imagery)

The fact that Fiji were knocked out in the semi-finals of the 2013 Rugby League World by Australia will make them even more determined to cause an upset this time around.

Fiji were demolished 64-0 by Australia in front of 67,545 spectators at Wembley Stadium that day, with a certain Jonathan Thurston picking up the man of the match award.

Australia will be more than happy if they win by that scoreline on Friday but it will not be that easy in any way, shape or form.

We will give credit where it is due to though, the Kangaroos have been solid and very organised in the tournament so far. They edged past England in the opening game and they comfortably beat Lebanon and France in the following group games.

Mal Meninga’s Australia side put in such a dominant display last week, thrashing Samoa 46-0 last Friday, knocking the Samoans out of the competition without a win.

But Fiji have played some of the most exciting rugby in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup so far and one very vital stat proves that. They have scored more points than any other team in the tournament, including Australia, with 172 points to their name.

Mick Potter has done a fantastic job coaching the Bati since taking over in 2016. They have beat USA 58-12, thrashed Wales 72-6 and won 38-10 against Italy in the group stage.

And they made history last week as they became just the second ever Tier Two side to beat a Tier One team in New Zealand. They were solid in defence and the Kiwis couldn’t even score as the Bati narrowly won 4-2 in Wellington.

Australia have got the best defence in the competition while Fiji have got the best attack so it is going to be an absolute belter in Brisbane.

KEY BATTLE

There will be a number of key battles all over the pitch but the one that stands out is between Australia’s David Klemmer and Fiji prop Ashton Sims. Klemmer is only 23 but has a huge figure which a lot of defences struggle to tackle. He makes a hell of a lot of metres.

Sims has signed for the Toronto Wolfpack ahead of the 2018 season and the Canadian fans must be buzzing that they have got him on their side. The 32-year-old has dug really deep for Fiji in the tournament and is a great motivator for any team. He is the ideal prop to have.

ONES TO WATCH

The one to watch for Australia has got to be Will Chambers. The 29-year-old has played over 170 games for Melbourne Storm in the NRL and is a very classy player to watch. He has been a great centre for winger Dane Gagai in the tournament and has very good footwork.

Chambers will be in for a tough ride though as he faces Fiji star Akuila Uate in the centres. The 30-year-old has been an NRL favourite for some time now and had a fine 2017 season for Manly Sea Eagles. He is the type of player to get fans on their feet and has pace to burn.

THE TEAMS

AUSTRALIA: 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 (C), 10. David Klemmer, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Matt Gillett, 13. Josh McGuire. Subs: 14. Wade Graham, 15. Jordan McLean, 16. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 17. Tyson Frizell. Reserves: 18. Felise Kaufusi, 19. Tom Trbojevic, 20. Josh Mansour, 21. James Maloney.

FIJI: 1. Kevin Naiqama (C), 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Taane Milne, 4. Akuila Uate, 5. Marcelo Montoya, 6. Jarryd Hayne, 7. Henry Raiwalui, 8. Ashton Sims, 9. Api Koroisau, 10. Eloni Vunakece, 11. Viliame Kikau, 12. Brayden Wiliame, 13. Tui Kamikamica. Subs: 14. Joe Lovodua, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Junior Roqica, 17. Ben Nakubuwai. Reserves: 18. James Storer, 19. Salesi Faingaa, 20. Sitiveni Moceidreke, 21. Pio Sokobalavu.

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee – Gerard Sutton, Touch Judges – Michael Wise & Chris Kendall, Video Referee – Bernard Sutton.

THE FAVOURITE

The Kangaroos are favourites to win the tournament so they are the favourites to beat Fiji, who have some players to only play Rugby League as part-time. The Bati need to play with the passion they have done all tournament to be in with a chance but loverugbyleague.com predict Australia by 16 points.

You can watch the game LIVE on Premier Sports at 9am on Friday 24 November.

How do you see the game going? Who will win? Let us know in the comments below.

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