So that tricky first Rugby World Cup game is done and dusted and the Wallabies got an important win.
They were the heavy favourites but we all knew there would be tricky periods and the Fijians certainly made the Aussies work hard for the win. So in the opening 80 minutes of Australia’s World Cup campaign what was there to talk about? Let’s dig in…
Don’t try to out-Fiji the Fijians
Everyone knew how Fiji were going to play in the opening half. However, the Wallabies almost tried to mimic the Pacific Island side and out-Fiji the Fijians. It didn’t work.
Australia found success when they played a much more organised game. Both their first-half tries were directly or indirectly the result of good work by their forwards. When they tried to play overly creative counter-attacking rugby, they struggled – ball runners got hit by big tackles and were isolated as a result, causing them to lose possession and ground.
They must learn from this for future games. Yes, they’ve got some great ball runners but they need to dominate up front first and then give their creative players the quick, clean ball to work their magic with. Don’t let the opposition dictate the pace or style of the match!
Nic White will bounce back… hopefully
Nic White didn’t have a good game. He was sloppy in too many areas – his handling was off and his kicking was average, with one loose kick leading to the first Fijian try.
One bad game doesn’t make him a bad player. He’s become a great threat to Will Genia’s first-team spot and that’s made Genia refocus and up his own game. Australia need White to bounce back quickly from this poor game – they need their two halfbacks in good form to go deep this tournament.
It looked at times as if White was trying to play the game at too high a pace and was trying to force things. Hopefully, that’s just first World Cup game nerves and excitement and he’ll settle into the competition.
Reece Hodge is a very lucky man
There’s already been a lot of talk about it but Reece Hodge will look back at the replay of that shoulder charge and think how lucky he was to stay on the field. Whichever way you look at it, he deserved a yellow card, maybe a penalty try, and maybe a red.
The TMO did review the tackle, but with Fiji set to refer the incident to the citing commissioner, questions will be raised about the way in which Tier 2 nations are treated when playing Tier 1 teams.
It would have been a completely different game had a red card or penalty card been issued. Would the Wallabies have been able to compete down a man?
Hodge did finish one move nicely and delivered his usual reliable in-play kicking, but is he really one of the two best wingers in Australian rugby?
Set piece was promising but the halves need more from the forwards
The Fijian set piece isn’t one of the world’s best but the Australian forwards still did a good job of using the scrum and lineout to set up attacking opportunities. It was an effective platform to gain control in a game where chaos could have easily dominated.
The lineout became a point-scoring weapon in the second half and the scrum was reliable throughout, frequently earning crucial penalties.
That said, the forwards do need to work harder in the loose to get their scrumhalf clean, quick ball. A few too many times in the first half the ruck was sloppy from the Wallabies and the Flying Fijians were able to cause real issues.
Pooper: Great combination, or just a way to get two great players on the field?
There was plenty of debate about whether the combination of David Pocock and Michael Hooper could work.
Fans will remember the 2015 World Cup when the two back-rowers were unstoppable. But there have been too many instances where, despite the talent of both players, the combination hasn’t quite delivered and instead caused as many issues as it solves.
Against Fiji it wasn’t so much that the Pooper combination was devastating but that the two players had good games. It was great to see Pocock back in action and Hooper did his usual job of giving his all for his team. The latter’s try was crucial in getting the Wallabies into the game.
The big challenge will be against Wales when the combination will be put under real pressure. The Wallabies’ lineout is a key weapon but playing the dual opensides takes away an option there.