KAMAISHI, 24 Sep - A preview for the Pool D game between Uruguay and Fiji, which kicks off at 14:15 on Wednesday, 25 September at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium
The Big Picture
If Fiji are to progress from the pool stages, coach John McKee believes bonus points could have the final say on how deep his side can potentially go into the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
After one round of fixtures, Australia and Wales are the front-runners in Pool D, the former coming from behind to defeat the Fijians 39-21 in Sapporo on Saturday. Despite leading on the hour-mark, Fiji failed to secure a point while the Wallabies and Wales took away all of the points on offer from their opening games.
With Fiji now turning their attention to Uruguay, McKee says that the Flying Fijians can have no doubt that they need to be at their best if they are to gain an all-important bonus-point victor,y with Georgia and Wales waiting in the wings.
"Across this whole series of four games to decide the top two for pool means that bonus points are going be very important in deciding the places for the playoffs,” McKee told media at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.
"We expect Uruguay, as a South American team, to use their forward pack as a strength and we will have to be on top of our game, particularly around the scrums and our maul defence.
"We are very aware of the threats they can bring to the game in those areas, and we will have to be on top of our game to defend there. In terms of our game, we want to try to play our Fijian style and we do have good speed in the outside backs, talents that we hope to utilise.”
Uruguay coach Esteban Meneses says progress for his team has come in a series of small steps.
"Our main goal will be to gain possession, keep the ball, remain tight in the scrum, and have a solid line. Driving the game with our set-piece and then following up with our backs," he said.
"We feel well, focused, and ready for what lies ahead."
Los Teros have suffered defeats at the hands of their opponents in recent encounters, including a 47-15 loss in the pool stages of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
The two teams also met in a friendly match played in unfamiliar surroundings last November, as the Fijians won 68-7 at the home of English Championship side Hartpury, which is also where Premiership club Gloucester Rugby train.
Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium built atop the ruins of the local school following the 2011 Tsunami. Rugby means SO much to this town, #FIJvURU hopefully another healing step after the tragedy of 8yrs ago. #RWCKamaishi #RWC2019 pic.twitter.com/mhOTCYIGrt— Sean Maloney (@seanny202) September 24, 2019
Fiji triumphed in their only previous Rugby World Cup encounter with Uruguay. On 6 October 2015, the Flying Fijians emerged victorious 47-15 in Milton Keynes, UK.
In the spotlight
Fiji's 28-year-old centre Jale Vatubua, who has fought back from a seven-week knee injury suffered in the Pacific Nations Cup, makes his Rugby World Cup debut.
"In my head, I was always going to make this World Cup and there was nothing that was going to stop me," he said. "Whatever the injury, I was going to overcome it. With belief and prayer, I just had to have trust in the process."
To keep his side fresh, McKee has made 12 changes to the starting XV who lost to Australia. Captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Leone Nakarawa, and Semi Radrada are the only three who play.
Meanwhile, brothers Josh and Sam Matavesi have also been named in the match-day 23 for Fiji at a World Cup match for the first time.
Uruguay make only three changes from the starting XV who lost their last test 41-24 against Spain in July. Diego Arbelo, Santiago Arata and Felipe Berchesi will start instead of Agustin Ormaechea, Juan Pedro Rombys (both on the bench) and Leandro Leivas, who does not make the match-day 23.
Stats & Trivia
In 1987, Fiji made it to the RWC knockout stages despite suffering two pool stage defeats. Since then, only France (2011) have matched that feat.
At an average age of 26 years and 79 days, Uruguay have the youngest squad at RWC 2019.
"Bonus points are going be very important in deciding the places for the playoffs. We expect Uruguay, as a South American team, to use their forward pack as a strength and we will have to be on top of our game, particularly around the scrums and our maul defence. We are very aware of the threats they can bring to the game in those areas. We want to try to play our Fijian style and we do have good speed in the outside backs, talents that we hope to utilise." - Fiji coach John McKee.
"We have done our work, and if ever I have been certain of anything it is this team's and its staff's firm intention to do our very best on Wednesday, as well as afterwards." - Uruguay assistant coach Oscar Duran.