PREVIEW: Fiji v Wales

(Image Credit - walesrugbyleague.co.uk)

Wales will want to really showcase their talent on Sunday as they face a Fiji side who will be wanting to continue their good start to the World Cup. 

The Fiji Bati battered the USA 58-12 in their opening game of the tournament last week, scoring more points than any team in Round 1.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Dragons lost heavily 50-6 to Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby last week and struggled to cope with the heat because most of the players ply their trade in the UK.

Papua New Guinea and Ireland play earlier on in the day so Wales may know their fate as whether there is something to play for in the game or not which could obviously go one or two ways for John Kear’s Wales outfit. They could either not turn up to the game mentally or they could really kick on and throw the ball about and cause an upset against Fiji.

But Fiji look very strong in this year’s tournament, especially with the likes of Jarryd Hayne and Henry Raiwalui orchestrating play from the halves.

Wales have made a number of changes to their side for Sunday’s clash with the most notable being Danny Ansell who comes into the scrum-half and replacing Matt Seamark.

People are expecting to see a lot from Fiji so all the pressure is on the Bati whereas Wales can go into the game with nothing to lose and with a heap of confidence.

KEY BATTLE

There will be quite a few key battles across the field, including the back-row and even in the centres but the one that stands-out is between props Craig Kopczak and Eloni Vunakece.

Kopczak has had one of his best years yet in the Betfred Super League with Salford Red Devils and is the Wales captain for the tournament. He is a brilliant leader for both Salford and Wales and is just a traditional prop who runs hard and straight.

Vunakece is one of the most underrated players in the Bati squad but is full of firepower. The 30-year-old has been in and out of the Sydney Roosters side since signing professional terms in 2016 but he is another play who hits hard and makes a couple of tackles per set.

ONES TO WATCH

The ones to watch is kind of key battle as well in a way because we have chosen Saints No. 2 Regan Grace and Fiji No. 5 Suliasi Vunivalu as the ones to keep an eye out for.

You will certainly have to try to keep an eye out for Grace because when he gets going, he really gets going and no player on the pitch will be able to catch him. He was nominated for Young Player of the Year in 2017 after an amazing breakthrough season at St Helens.

Vunivalu is one of the most prolific try-scorers in the world at the minute because he just can’t seem to stop scoring. The 21-year-old made his NRL debut with Melbourne Storm in 2016 and has scored 46 tries in 47 appearances for the club so Wales will certainly have to watch out for him.

THE TEAMS

FIJI: 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. Wiliame 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. Pio Seci, 20. Salesi Faingaa, 21. Sitiveni Moceidreke.

WALES: 1. Elliot Kear, 2. Rhys Williams, 3. Michael Channing, 4. Christiaan Roets, 5. Regan Grace, 6. Courtney Davies, 7. Danny Ansell, 8. Craig Kopczak, 9. Steve Parry, 10. Phil Joseph, 11. Rhodri Lloyd, 12. Joe Burke, 13. Morgan Knowles. Subs: 14. Matty Fozard, 15. Matthew Barron, 16. Ben Evans, 17. Dalton Grant. Reserves: 18. Josh Ralph, 19. Ben Morris, 20. Gavin Bennion, 21. Andrew Gay.

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee – Chris Kendall, Touch Judges – Mark Craven & Chris Sutton, Video Referee – Phil Bentham.

THE FAVOURITE

Fiji are the clear favourites to take the two points from the game and it would be a big shock to the Rugby League world if Wales did win but the Dragons have certainly got the talent in the squad to get the win but Fiji just look too strong this year. Loverugbyleague.com predicts Fiji will win by 32 points.

You can watch the game LIVE on Premier Sports at 08:30am on Sunday 5 November.

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

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