Radradra shines but fitful Fiji fail the consistency test

The Pacific Islanders are left to wonder what might have been after stretching Australia and Wales - but losing to Uruguay.

TOKYO, 12 Oct - Fiji came to Rugby World Cup 2019 aiming to reach the quarter-finals for the third time and were looking good when they led Australia with 20 minutes left of their opening match in Sapporo.

But the Wallabies rallied late and John McKee's team went down 39-21. Their qualification hopes were then dealt a massive blow when they were stunned 30-27 by Uruguay in their next match.

While a 45-10 win over Georgia in their penultimate game guaranteed third place and qualification for RWC 2023, Fiji will have been frustrated that they could not keep their quarter-final hopes alive in their final match against Wales.

The Pacific Islanders led for much of an enthralling encounter in Oita but Wales pulled away in the last 20 minutes to win 29-17. 

Head coach

John McKee, below, will be out of contract at the end of this World Cup cycle but the New Zealander says he is already planning for the 2023 tournament.

He said securing their place in France will give him the chance to blood new talent over the next four years, with some experienced hands expected to retire. 

Player of the tournament

Captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu , below, was Fiji's rock and started in every pool game. But it was wing Semi Radradra, pictured top, who stole the show, spearheading Fiji's threatening attack and being named Player of the Match twice, against Georgia and Wales.

Memorable moment off the pitch

In the build-up to the match at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, some of Fiji's players paid their respects during a visit to the remnants of the Taro Kanko Hotel near Miyako, 45 minutes north of Kamaishi.

The derelict site is now an educational facility for the reduction of risk around natural disasters such as the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami of 2011, which left more than 15,000 people dead, including more than 1,060 in Kamaishi.

Memorable moment on the pitch

Api Ratuniyarawa's score in Fiji's seven-try victory over Georgia, below, stands out the replacement second-row crossing after Radradra and scrum-half Frank Lomani returned a Georgian restart with lethal precision. Lomani said afterwards: "This is how Fijians like to play - just throwing the ball around and making the right offloads."

What next? 

With some of the squad likely to retire after RWC 2019, McKee is keen to keep many of the young players together over the next four-year cycle and build on their experience of playing in European club competition. Fiji return to action on 16 November as they take on the Barbarians at Twickenham before the players rejoin their respective clubs.

Quotes of the tournament

"After the tsunami devastated the area, you understand that rugby is more than just a game. It is important to look to the future and how the area can regrow. We can see already that there has been a lot of development."
- McKee, on their time spent in Kamaishi.

"It's playing top nations constantly. Like Argentina in the Rugby Championship. Argentina were a very good team before but, if you're playing New Zealand, South Africa and Australia week-in week-out, it's going to help you. We're the same."
- Samuel Matavesi on what Fiji need to do to be more competitive against Tier 1 nations.

How did they do?

Lost to Australia 39-21 in Sapporo

Lost to Uruguay 30-27 in Kamaishi

Beat Georgia 45-10 in Osaka

Lost to Wales 29-17 in Oita

Fiji by numbers

6 - Fiji have failed to advance beyond the pool stage in six of their eight RWC appearances. The last time they made the quarter-finals was in 2007.

7 - Their seven tries against Georgia is the most they have scored in a RWC match for 20 years. The only time they have scored more was when they put nine past Namibia in 1999.

5 - Fiji's five tries against Uruguay equalled the RWC record for most tries scored in a losing cause. Wales scored five against Fiji at RWC 2007, only to lose 38-34.

1 - Josua Tuisova's try against Georgia made him the first player to score a try in an Olympic final and a Rugby World Cup match. He scored Fiji's sixth try of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games sevens final against Great Britain.

RNS si/sg/mj/mr