By losing to Wales last Sunday (40-6), the Wallabies opened a boulevard as wide as three times the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to Fiji for a first quarter-final qualification in 16 years. With six points on the clock – the same total as Eddie Jones’ men – obtained against the two big players in Group C (32-26 defeat doubly improved against Wales, 22-15 victory against Australia), and one more match to play than Australia, they only have five more units to take to ensure their qualification.
Imagining that their Aussie competitors also win in their last match against Portugal, a victory without bonus and a defeat with bonus against Georgia and Portugal would be enough for the happiness of the Melanesians.
Mathematically, everything remains playable of course. It is not the supporters of the French football team over forty who will say that the musicians must be paid before the end of the ball, in memory of the painful qualifying campaign for the American World Cup in 1994 which had seen the Blues were eliminated after losing against Israel and Bulgaria, when a small point was necessary. We can still bet that we have seen a more difficult task, even for a nation which is still seeking to remain in tier 1 (top 10 in the world).
Five points against Georgia for maximum comfort
Facing the media, Fijian coach Simon Raiwalui unsurprisingly played the card of caution, even if it meant flirting with wooden language: “We don’t pay attention to what people think about the matches. We take the matches one after the other, and we respect each of our opponents. There is no easier or more difficult match. Georgia is a very good team. Our state of mind is to take it game by game“.
By advancing masked, Raiwalui wants to warn his players against any excess of complacency, a real poison for a rugby team. And he is certainly right to only focus on the next match against Georgia. This meeting against the Lelos represents a major strategic challenge for his group. A victory with four tries scored and the matter would already be in the bag for the quarterfinals. Better still, it would allow him to manage his squad as he sees fit in anticipation of a probable quarter-final against England.
A hidden objective but within the ropes of the Islanders, which will come naturally if they approach the meeting from the right end without skipping steps. A rigor, a guarantee of the best nations in this game, which they were able to highlight so well during this resounding victory against the Wallabies which opened wide the field of possibilities.
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