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Wales on alert to expect ‘lightning bolts’ in World Cup opener against Fiji

09 Sep 2023 3 minute read
Wales head coach Warren Gatland. David Davies/PA Wire.

Wales have been put on alert to expect “lightning bolts” in their Rugby World Cup opener against Fiji on Sunday.

It is the fifth-successive tournament for Wales and Fiji to meet, with Warren Gatland’s team on a run of three-consecutive wins.

Fiji, though, dumped Wales out of the 2007 World Cup following a thrilling clash in Nantes, while four years ago they led by 10 points before Wales recovered to prevail 29-17.

Fiji have improved their set-piece play considerably under head coach Simon Raiwalui, a dazzling running and off-loading game remains central to their outlook.

They are currently above Wales in the world rankings and fresh from beating England at Twickenham, with players like Semi Radradra, captain Waisea Nayacalevu and number eight Viliame Mata posing major threats.

Lightning bolts

“I think we have got to expect lightning bolts from this team – line-breaks, off-loads, how they pick through the breakdown,” Wales assistant coach and defence specialist Mike Forshaw said.

“We have got to be really alert and alive around our defence in every area.

“We are expecting that kind of arm-wrestle. We have just got to stay in the game physically and mentally.

“We are going to take lightning bolts at some point, but it is about really focusing on ourselves.

“We’ve got to be physical, we’ve got to take some bruises tomorrow and hopefully dish them out if we can.

“Everyone is talking about this Fiji team and rightly so because I was at Twickenham a couple of weeks ago and they were mightily impressive.

“I think tomorrow we have got to see the best of us against this team, I really believe that.

“Physicality is an easy word to say, but we have got to lead with our actions tomorrow, as I am sure Fiji will.”

Flying start

Gatland has arrived at a fourth World Cup and his record of two fourth-placed finishes and a quarter-final exit in 2015 is impressive.

And victory on Sunday would give Wales a flying start in terms of their quest to reach the knockout phase from a group that also features Australia, Georgia and Portugal.

“I think from a coaching perspective, the ultimate pinnacle is the World Cup ,” Gatland said.

“It’s the one time in international windows that you get full preparation. It feels like you are working with a club side in having a pre-season.

“We’ve been able to work on a lot of things in the last few months in terms of the detail and putting together a strategy, but also making sure we have not done just the hard work but worked hard on other aspects of the game.

“For us, we’ve spoken about discipline and keeping them (Fiji) out of our 22. They tend to come alive in opposition 22s.

“We’ve prepared well, particularly the last few weeks. We are in a good place for the challenge, physically and mentally.”

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