Flying Fijians coach John McKee has identified the strength of the Georgians in their pool D match today at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium which is their only hope of regaining some semblance of dignity after the two losses in as many games at the Rugby World Cup.
“We know Georgia’s strengths and are prepared for a battle around the set pieces and the breakdown” McKee told Fiji Rugby Union.
McKee said ranking third in Pool D was important because it would allow direct qualification to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France which looked like a two way battle between Fiji and Georgia barring any upsets in the other pool matches.
“This match against Georgia was always going to be a key match in this pool and nothing has changed,” McKee said.
“There is plenty at stake in this game as a top three finish in our pool means automatic qualification for RWC 2023.”
Fiji lost 21-39 to Australia in their opening match on September 21 then was upset by Uruguay four days later in their second match 27-30 at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium last week.
The chances of a playoff berth for the Flying Fijians look dismal with a huge upset of Australia by Uruguay on Saturday or the Georgians next Friday to aid Fiji’s cause looks almost impossible.
Australia which is second on Pool D with six points looks to gain maximum points wins against Uruguay and Georgia to close out the preliminary matches at 17 points, second behind Wales, to face the top of pool C which is most likely England in the quarterfinals.
Wales which is most likely to finish top of Pool D with 19 points if it gains maximum points wins against Fiji and Uruguay, will play the second place finisher from Pool C which is most likely France or Argentina.
Former national star winger Joape Kuinikoro laid a pathway of a very unlikely option for the Flying Fijians to reach the playoffs by first beating Georgia today in their third match of the Rugby World Cup.
“We need these three results to proceed to play off stage,” Kuinikoro said on his
“One; for Fiji to defeat Georgia with at least four tries so we get five competition points; two, for Georgia to beat Australia by more than seven points and Australia not to score more than three tries so they do not get any competition point; three, for Fiji to beat Wales and make more than three tries to get five competition points. One of those results is out of our control. Possible?”
Kuinikoro scored a try on the right wing as a 21-year-old university student helped Fiji defeat the British Lions 25-21 at Bukhurst Park in Suva on August 15, 1977.
The other option which is an unlikely elimination of Wales which will see Fiji advancing to a quarterfinal clash against England on Sunday, October 20, at the Oita Stadium will depend on huge upsets.
Firstly, Fiji will have to win on maximum points against Georgia tonight for a five-point gain taking Fiji to seven points, then another upset win over Wales next Wednesday, October 9, at Oita Stadium to close out at 12 points in the pool stage.
After a 10-day turnaround Wales will stay on nine points if it loses to Fiji in their next match, and after a four-day break lose to Uruguay in their last match on October 13 which will keep them points static allowing Fiji to leapfrog them to second in Pool D.
Priority first is Fiji’s need to tackle their next opponents Georgia tonight.
Fiji’s lineup tonight against Georgia: 1. Campese Ma’afu, 2. Samuel Matavesi, 3. Manasa Saulo, 4. Tevita Cavubati, 5. Leone Nakarawa, 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 7. Semi Kunatani, 8. Peceli Yato, 9. Frank Lomani, 10. Ben Volavola, 11. Semi Radradra, 12. Levani Botia, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu, 14. Josua Tuisova, 15. Kini Murimurivalu
Reserves: 16. Ratu Veremalua Vugakoto, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Peni Ravai, 19. Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20. Viliame Mata, 21. Nikola Matawalu, 22. Jale Vatubua, 23. Josh Matavesi.