infonews.co.nz
INDEX
RUGBY

Wales aim for error-free match against Fiji

Sunday 2 October 2011, 12:22PM

By Rugby World Cup 2011

301 views

HAMILTON

Wales moved one step closer to a quarter-final berth thanks to South Africa's 13-5 victory over Pool D rivals Samoa on Friday night, but the Welsh will still be looking to play mistake-free rugby against Fiji in their final match.

In what promises to be a clash of different styles at Waikato Stadium on Sunday, Fiji have promised to bring the fun back to their game.

"If they play that typical Fijian style that could put us under a bit of pressure," said coach Warren Gatland as he plotted how to cement his side's place in the knockout stages.

"They have not thrown the ball around as much as we thought they might have. They may do that on Sunday.

"We've got to be strong in the set piece, we have to get the ball on the front foot - if we do that it gives you an opportunity to move the ball.

"We've got to go out there with confidence that we are good enough in the type of rugby we are playing that we can win, and win reasonably well."

Wales will progress to the last eight by taking at least one competition point from Fiji while the islanders can only get through by beating the Welsh by 85 points.

Ringing the changes

Fiji's starting line-up contains only five players who took to the field in their defeat by Samoa, with Netani Edward Talei replacing Deacon Manu as captain.

"It's always a privilege to be named as captain. There are lots of senior players on the team, so it's a real honour," Talei said. "I want to lead those younger players out on Sunday and set a good example to them."

Fiji coach coach Samu Domoni wants to see his team return to a free-flowing style that the world has come to expect from the Pacific Islanders.

"The biggest word we have been focusing on during the week is energy," he said. "We'll bring plenty of that, plus effort and desire. We want to really enjoy ourselves on Sunday."
Albert Vulivuli, who went to school in Hamilton, gets his first Rugby World Cup start on the wing and has vowed to entertain the Waikato crowd.

"I will be so glad to be out there," he said. "It will be extra special because it will be at my old home ground in Hamilton. "I'll bring plenty of energy. I'll be really hungry for the ball."

Early exit

As confident as they are, Wales will not have forgotten their pool-stage exit from Rugby World Cup 2007, when they were beaten 38-34 by Fiji.

"We have to give them respect because four years ago they played a fantastic game against Wales," said fly half Rhys Priestland. "We have not spoken about it for the past week, so we'll go out there with confidence."

Prop Gethin Jenkins says the current squad is vastly stronger, both physically and mentally, than the side that lost four years ago.

"I think we believe a lot more coming into this game. Yeah, we expected to win last time but there was always the thought that we were not playing that well," he said.

"We've come into this game on the back of five good performances. There is a belief that we can go into the big games and pull off a performance."

Wales assistant coach Robert Howley knows how damaging Fiji can be with the ball, after the teams drew 16-16 at Millennium Stadium last November.

No complacency

"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.

Howley says Wales' focus will be on Sunday's match, not the quarter-finals.

"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 November)."

Fiji could be described as a wounded animal, having lost their last two pool games. They have to be considered dangerous, especially after receiving heavy criticism at home.

"We know that. We will try and do lots of good things on Sunday," coach Domoni said. "Collectively, we've been very positive during the week.

"We will try and finish on a high."