infonews.co.nz
INDEX
RUGBY

Wales wary of refreshed Fiji

Friday 30 September 2011, 2:56AM

By Rugby World Cup 2011

375 views

HAMILTON

Wales have a quarter-final berth at Rugby World Cup 2011 almost within their grasp, but they will not be underestimating a rejuvenated Fiji outfit in their final Pool D match at Waikato Stadium on Sunday.

Fijian captain Deacon Manu admits the team's World Cup campaign so far has been a disappointment. But he says there will be new players taking the field against Wales, some of them playing their first World Cup match.

"They will bring a lot of energy, enthusiasm and determination," he said this week. "We just want to have fun."

Wales assistant coach Robert Howley knows the risks of being complacent against Fiji.

"It sends danger signs, doesn't it?" he said. "The games that Fiji have played so far have been really smart and intelligent."

Wales have been bitten twice by Fiji in recent years, first in the 2007 World Cup, when they were upset 38-34, and again in November 2010 when the teams drew 16-16 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

"I think everyone can turn up on international games and put a performance in. And that's what Fiji did back in the autumn series," Howley said.

"It keeps your feet on the ground having had that experience back in the autumn series. It's not a bad thing, in terms of the Welsh psyche."

Sleepless nights

Wing Shane Williams still has nightmares about Wales' early exit in 2007.

"That's not the way you want to be going home from the World Cup. It's sure to be in the back of some of the boys' minds," he said.

But the Welsh camp is confident there will be no repeat of those results.

"Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves and we think we're better than we are. But we realise how good this Fiji side are and they showed that (in the autumn series)," Howley said.

Williams said: "They've had two tough games against South Africa and Samoa. It hasn't been easy for Fiji.

"When they start playing the rugby they want to play, there are not many teams that can go with them. They are a very dangerous side."

Hooker Huw Bennett says Wales' preparation has left nothing to chance.

"As we approach this game, we know the strengths Fiji have got. The squad (Wales) have good camaraderie now," he said.

Mentally tough

Williams, Wales' all-time leading try scorer, says there is a new, harder edge to the squad as the quarter-finals approach.

"This is the most mentally tough group I've ever been involved in," he said.

As much as Williams wants to play against Fiji, he is unlikely to be selected because he is still recovering from a thigh strain.

"Shane came through a good training session this morning, (but) we might not select him for this weekend," Howley said.

"We are pretty mindful. Shane is pretty important to us."

Williams said: "I'd be disappointed if that is the case. But I've got to take it on the chin."

Howley is under no illusions about the standard of rugby Fiji are capable of playing.

"I think when you look at the world-class players they have and their ability to play rugby, their offloading skills and their momentum, they're very good rugby players," he said.