TOKYO, 20 Sep - Analysis of Fiji, in Pool D with Australia, Georgia, Uruguay and Wales. They play Australia on Saturday, 21 September in Sapporo.
A team of extremes; no team rucks less or passes more per ruck. Just one team kicks less and one scrummages better. Only Namibia see less of the ball in a match.
- In the past two years Fiji have beaten Samoa, Georgia, Uruguay, France, Canada and Tonga.
- Combine extraordinary attacking ability with a much improved scrum.
Fiji are entertainers. Within the first minute of their most recent match, against Tonga, they had been turned over, turned the ball back over, and fly-half Ben Volavola had slapped a pass on after Tonga had closed him down quickly. All within their own 22. They play as if every game is a game of sevens and the warm and dry Japanese weather will suit them.
Their scrum improvements cannot be overstated. Fiji used to be a team who would throw the ball around and then, when they knocked on, walk backwards in the scrum. They are no longer that team. They put Japan under pressure earlier this year and dominated the Tonga scrum in the second half of their match in August. Matches against Georgia and Wales will be a huge test of their new-found skill.
The Fiji team can turn the ball over at breakdowns, in mauls, or they can strip the ball in the tackle. No carry is safe from their ball-pinching attention. Not only do they turn the ball over, they can then run the length of the pitch and score tries.
No team's goal-kicking success rate is lower than Fiji’s 62 per cent. They have a scrum which can squeeze penalties out of any opposition, but that only counts if they can convert the kicks.
Against Tonga, Fiji made mistake after mistake and were kept penned inside their own 22 metre-line for the first 35 minutes. They finished that period level at 12-12, thanks to two tries from inside their own half following Tongan mistakes. Neither Australia nor Wales will panic when they reach the Fijian 22. Expect to see Fiji much further behind if they play like they did for 35 minutes against Tonga.
How to impress your friends
"Georgia kick the third most often of any team in the tournament and have the ball for just 1m 10s more than Fiji per match. The clash of styles and game plans will create the best match of the pool stage (on 9 October)."
Vital statistics (All Test Matches 2018)
World Ranking: 9th
Average minutes of possession per game: 14m 41s (19th of the 20 teams at RWC 2019)
Scrum success: 98% (2nd)
Lineout success: 81% (14th)
Goal-kicking success: 62% (20th)
Average tries scored: 4.5 (5th)
Average tries conceded: 3.2 (13th)
Seconds per pass/ruck/kick: 7.1 (6th)/14 (20th)/67.8 (19th)
Passes per ruck: 2 (1st)