Rugby World Cup 2019: Fiji reveal surprise selection for Wallabies tournament opener

  • 19/09/2019

Fiji have pulled a rabbit from their hat by shifting the explosive Semi Radradra to the wing for their rugby World Cup opener against Australia in Sapporo.

The former rugby league star will start on the left wing on Saturday, the same position where he was a five-season NRL sensation for Parramatta, scoring 82 tries in 94 games until 2017.

All of the 27-year-old's test rugby appearances have been at outside centre and he has been primarily used there at French club Bordeaux.

Fiji coach John McKee has made the switch to accommodate another French-based star, Waisea Nayacalevu, in the No.13 jersey.

It means a demotion to the reserve bench for Fiji's record try-scorer Vereniki Goneva, the 35-year-old winger who has crossed 22 times, including when Fiji last faced Australia two years ago.

While the Flying Fijians were well beaten in Melbourne, the world's ninth-ranked team have since made strides, notching Test wins over Italy, Scotland and a first-ever defeat of France in Paris last November.

A fearsome-looking backline is served by a pack laced with players hardened from experience in the European club top flight.

McKee has gone close to naming his most experienced possible team for a crucial game if they are to achieve their tournament goal and qualify for the quarter- finals.

They have done it twice before, in 1987 and 2007, but the current team is rated among the strongest Pacific island side to attend the global tournament.

All five players who are at their third tournament are in the squad, including No.8 Viliame Mata and lock Leone Nakarawa, both rated among Europe's premier forwards.

That pair won seven gold, along with Josua Tuisova, who is on the right wing.

Sydney-born Ben Volavola will be familiar to the Wallabies, the French-based five-eighth having played Super Rugby for the Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels.

Fiji: 15-Kini Murimurivalu, 14-Josua Tuisova, 13-Waisea Nayacalevu, 12-Levani Botia, 11-Semi Radradra, 10-Ben Volavola, 9-Frank Lomani, 8-Viliame Mata, 7-Peceli Yato, 6-Dominiko Waqaniburotu (capt), 5-Leone Nakarawa, 4-Tevita Cavubati, 3-Peni Ravai, 2-Sam Matavesi, 1-Campese Ma'afu. 

Reserves: 16-Veremalua Vugakoto, 17-Eroni Mawi22-Alivereti Veitokani, 23-Vereniki Goneva


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