The opening semi-final of the Rugby League World Cup takes place on Friday with the tournament hosts Australia looking to make it through to the final as many expected them to do when the competition began last month.
One side who were not expected to be at this stage of the tournament were Fiji and they are the team who will be challenged with the task of denying Australia a spot in the finale next weekend.
The Australians have cruised into this semi-final. They haven’t been at their best or anywhere near it but they look to be gaining in form as the event goes on and they will hope their very best comes in the next two matches. They will need to keep on improving because this Fiji side is the best one they have faced in the competition to date.
Australia have built their campaign on their defensive resoluteness so far in the tournament but there were signs against Samoa in the quarter final that they were picking things up in attack. Valentine Holmes had a big game for them and he could be key here too. Big match experience is very much on Australia’s side.
The best thing about this World Cup so far has been the form and the excitement of the Fijian side. They have been a real joy to watch. They have brought an attacking flair to the competition along with a passionate which has been so appealing. We also saw a completely different side to them in the quarter final.
They displayed a toughness and a defensive organisation that suggests that they can be competitive in this semi-final even if they are ultimately not good enough to win it. We know this Fiji outfit are not going to lack for energy, effort or commitment. There won’t be many neutrals in the stadium for this match but neutral onlookers will be behind them.
Australia have named an unchanged squad for this match. Wade Graham begins on the bench as does Tyson Frizell. Dane Gagai will on the opposite wing to Holmes.
Fiji are also unchanged for this semi-final which means that Jarryd Hayne will be up against familiar foes. Kevin Naiqama, Ashton Sims and Suliasi Vunivalu will need big games for the Fijians.
Fiji have done brilliantly to make it this far in the tournament but I think their run ends here. I don’t think they are going to be disgraced or anything like that though. We’ve seen them offer plenty in the competition and the way they defended against New Zealand last week bodes well.
The problem I think the Fiji side will have is scoring points. Hardly anyone has gone over the Australian try line in this tournament and that is a concern. Australia will win the game but if they start to pull clear they might ease up and make sure there is enough in the tank for next week so I’m thinking under 44.5pts is the way to go here.
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