Wales seek Fiji springboard towards quarters


Sam Warburton’s Wales can take a giant step towards securing an automatic World Cup quarter-final qualifying spot when they face Fiji on Thursday.

The Welsh skipper said that after their dramatic win over England, the team are determined not to talk themselves out of another victory.

The Welsh are second in the “Pool of Death” on points difference from Australia, the two sides having both notched up two victories in two matches.

England sit third having lost 28-25 to Wales and play the Wallabies at Twickenham on Saturday in a must-win match.

Warburton said the team had been buoyed by their outstanding win over England even though it came at an injury cost, Hallam Amos and Scott Williams ruled out and Liam Williams undergoing concussion protocols.

“The players are talking to each other and we definitely can’t let this slip now against Fiji,” Warburton said.

“I know the players aren’t going to be in the wrong mindset going into the Fiji game because it would be so easy to slip up against Fiji, who I guarantee won’t be 66-0 like it was four years ago.

“We know we’re going to have to be at our best to get a good result, so there’s going to be no complacency whatsoever.”

Indeed, that rogue result in New Zealand four years ago aside, it was Fiji who produced one of the performances of the 2007 World Cup in France when they beat Wales 38-34 to send the Welsh home early.

“The performance against England sort of proved to ourselves we can compete and we’ve got a fantastic chance of doing well and we’ve always believed that but it’s one thing believing it and another thing seeing it,” Warburton said.

“Being able to go to England and win at Twickenham was a massive confidence booster for the whole squad.”

– Fiji discipline worries –

Wales coach Warren Gatland said he wanted his players to build a run of victories.

“The longer we are together the better we get and when we’ve won Grand Slams and stuff and big performances the momentum carries us through and that’s what I’m counting on for Thursday,” Gatland said.

Fiji — who have lost Nemani Nadolo to a ban but welcome back Dominiko Waqaniburotu from his week on the sidelines — now have little left but an upset to hope for in the tournament’s toughest pool.

In an arduous opening to the tournament, Fiji played and lost to England and Australia in just five days.

“It is tough,” said assistant coach Tabai Matson who played for Fiji in the 1999 World Cup and later played 10 games for the All Blacks.

“But in saying that we are still enjoying ourselves and we have got a great opportunity in front of us. The mountain just got steeper. Now we are relying on other teams to fall over.”

Fiji have lost two players — prop Isei Colati and wing Waisea Nayacalevu — through injury, but Matson said they have taken heart from the way Wales overcame a horror run of injuries to overpower England.

“It was a great Welsh team performance and we have to understand that 80 minutes of rugby is going to be the minimum amount of effort for us,” he said.

A lack of discipline has marked Fiji’s opening matches. They have conceded 24 penalties, three yellow cards and had two players cited. With Wales fly-half Dan Biggar in fine kicking form, booting 23 points in the England win, Matson said issues of ill-discipline had been addressed.

“Even for us now, our discipline has let us down and that, against the big teams, can lead to three, six or nine points, when you are a man down. Then you are chasing the game. So, it is a critical part of our success.”