Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fiji to Play against Japan in France

FLYING Fijians coach Ilivasi Tabua knows his team will have to withstand early Japan pressure in tomorrow morning's Group B World Cup match.
Injury-hit Japan will be looking to bounce back from Sunday's 91-3 mauling against Australia, while Fiji begins its World Cup program confident of beating the Japanese for the seventh time in their ninth meeting.
"They do everything at 100 miles an hour," Tabua said of Japan. "They will more or less rush everything, while we will try and control it, take the pressure off, and unleash what we have in our fire-armour," Tabua told the Associated Press.
Fiji beat Japan 41-13 at the last World Cup, and 30-15 earlier this year.
"You will see Fijian flair and the running style of rugby," Tabua said.
However, Fiji needs to be vigilant as Japan's all-out pacy, attacking style can unsettle opponents.
"It is hard to play Japan because of the pace, they have a running game as well so what we have to do is shut them down," Fiji's vice-captain and second row Kele Leawere said. "We have to beat Japan to make the quarter-finals."
Tabua will look to Saracens halfback pairing of scrumhalf Mosese Rauluni and flyhalf Nicky Little to unlock Japan's defense.
Centre Seremaia Bai is also expected to show his tough tackling.
Bai has been picked on three occasions for the Pacific Highlanders a mixture of Tonga, Samoa and Fiji players.
Tabua, meanwhile, will become the first Fijian to coach the small nation at the World Cup.
As a player, Tabua had the rare distinction of representing two countries at the World Cup: Australia in 1995 and Fiji four years later. Frank Bunce (Samoa/New Zealand) and Graeme Bachop (New Zealand/Japan) did the same.
Japan's coach John Kirwan the first All Blacks player to play 50 internationals needs to find a way to restore confidence after Saturday's thumping.
Japan, which is 1-17 at World Cups, won its only match 16 years ago a 52-8 crushing of Zimbabwe.
Kirwan's bid to turn Japan's fortunes around took a blow with the news that flanker Takamichi Sasaki, the captain against Aust-ralia, will miss the rest of the competition with a left-knee strain.
"He has been quite outstanding in the last two or three weeks," Kirwan said.
"He never took a backward step against Australia and he put in some big hits."
Kirwan's original World Cup plans have been shredded by a succession of injuries. Mitsugu Yamamoto, Eiji Ando and Daisuke Ohata are also sidelined.
Ohata is the highest try-scorer in world rugby with 69 tries five more than famed Australian David Campese.
Kirwan will give the captain's armband back to No. 8 Takuro Miuchi, who was captain at the 2003 World Cup.
"Everyone needs to have a great game but I'll be looking for Miuchi to really stand up as captain," Kirwan said.
Fiji has a slim chance of reaching the quarterfinal stage, with Australia and Wales tipped to take the top two spots.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online