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The monster lurking in Pool C for the Wallabies

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Roar Rookie
22nd August, 2023
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Part of the joy of the World Cup is about seeing games that don’t usually occur and seeing upsets. Japan in Brighton anyone?

As the anticipation for the upcoming Rugby World Cup builds, let’s delve into the underdog potential that could bring about thrilling surprises once again

Semi finalists 2019
England, South Africa, New Zealand and Wales.

Of that group, Wales is in Pool C, alongside Australia as the Tier One nations.

England. Directionless.
The finalists in 2019 look sluggish, out of sorts and a bit headless, perhaps still suffering the post EJ hangover.
Farrell’s “unbanning” is almost worse for the team as without him the mercurial Smith would have been in prime spot to lead the Roses out.

South Africa. Fallible.
Winners in 2019 but there is a sense of fallibility about the Boks. Handre Pollard-less, parachuting captain fantastic Siya Kolisi into the fray and with the coaches on a swansong, it could go either way. A good marker will be whether or not the warm up match vs the All Blacks results in more critical injuries. The Boks have never gone back to back.

New Zealand. Ascendent.
Nuff said. The machine looks pretty slick and deep where it needs to be.

Wales. Frail.
The world is still grappling with a Wales side not led by Alun Wyn Jones, one that also doesn’t feature the stalwart names. They play like a team that can’t action the plan set by Warren Gatland.

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Pool C: A Cauldron of Potential Upsets
Pool C houses Wales, Australia, Fiji, Georgia, and Portugal. This pool is particularly intriguing due to the potential vulnerability of formerly strong teams like Wales and Australia.

Wales’ Fragility
As discussed, Wales lacks depth in key areas and is fragile, key injuries and they will be in real trouble. We saw them struggle for direction against a poor England side that had three yellow cards at once last weekend. In that situation, they only managed to score once when playing against 12 men.

Georgia, the Boars and Bears
Georgia will always be a dark horse (pardon the animal metaphors), but expect sides that come up against them to battle against the scrum. Physicality is their weapon and teams will feel the toll of being in collisions with blokes whose ancestors wrestled boars and bears for fun.

Portugal, the Plucky Contender
This team is much better than any that Portugal has fielded in the professional era. Many played in very successful under 20 teams together. They will be plucky and better than you expect, with some talent at 10 and 12, they probably will end winless.

Fiji, the Pool C Monster
And then.. There is Fiji. A side that had Vern Cotter, then didn’t have Vern Cotter, barely played during Covid and yet have one of the scariest sides on paper in the game.

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World Cups are made for Fiji even if 2019 was not a vintage year for them. If the Pacific Nations form is anything to go by, Fiji are rising. Many in the squad have played together in Super Rugby with the Drua which adds a missing element of much needed consistency.

Fiji have always battled with discipline and set piece, but this year, things are looking so much slicker and clearer. Forget the mad missiles in the backline for a moment.

Rugby is built off of forwards and Fiji suddenly have front rowers that are playing top flight in some of the very best leagues in the world – Sam Matavesi from Northampton, Eroni Mawi – Saracens and Peni Ravai – Clermont and now the Reds.

The pack tore through Samoa’s pack which was anchored by former All Black Charlie Faumuina. Similarly they tore through Tonga’s much vaunted pack which is also anchored by a massive top-flite prop in the form of Ben Tameifuna.

The locks are a potential weak point in their squad, but the loose trio will be sensational. Led by a man who would make any side in the world – Levani Botia. There is not a coach in the world who wouldn’t give their firstborn to have Botia in the squad.

If they can lay the platform – especially at scrum time and get rid of the discipline issues, Fiji are a scary prospect.

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And then there is the backline.

The halves in Nikola Matawalu and Frank Lomani are classy, but the missiles outside of them are gamebreakers.

Fiji's Semi Radradra (right) is tackled by Georgia's Giorgi Kveseladze during the Autumn Nations Cup match at BT Murrayfield stadium, Edinburgh. (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images)

Fiji’s Semi Radradra (right) is tackled by Georgia’s Giorgi Kveseladze . (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images)

It’s the Kim Jong Un shopping list of destructive outside backs. Nuclear talent, ridiculous skills and freak athletes: Waisea Nayacalevu, Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova. Those three alone are keeping Wales’ defence coaches up at night. The list goes on but you would imagine they would want all three to start in some sort of centre/centre/wing axis of destruction.

Beating Wales is a distinct possibility, but Australia? That may be more difficult.
Fiji will beat Portugal, should beat Wales, can beat Australia and strangely (I think) will battle with the dogged Georgians far more than anyone expects.

Georgia is the only team in the pool that will be able to match the physicality of the Fijian forwards and scrum. The backs won’t be able to handle the pace and skills of Fiji, but expect to see cards given in this match.

A final point is that Fiji will likely get better during the comp. It’s a pity that unlike many other teams that have a favorable draw, Fiji starts with Wales – a side that will get worse as injuries mount – and then have Australia. So their campaign starts off with the top teams in the pool.

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Can they get out of the Pool? Yes. Will they? Very likely.

If you were in Pool C who would you fear the most? Wales? Australia? Georgia? Or Fiji? (Apologies Portugal and here’s hoping you get a scalp).

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