Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
The Bati will head into Friday night's clash brimming with confidence after a highly impressive beginning to their 2017 World Cup Campaign. Mick Potter's men have been a highlight of the competition thus far, scoring 130 points and conceding just 18. Fiji were near perfect last week in their dominant 72-6 victory over Wales. The Bati ran in 14 tries and finished with 15 line breaks in a scintillating attacking displaying that should see them progress through to the finals of the World Cup this year. Fiji's monstrous forward pack and exhilarating outside backs were equally vital to last week's victory, demonstrating the quality of Potter's overall line-up and the considerable threat they could be to sides such as Australia, New Zealand and England.
While Fiji is sitting comfortable on top spot of Group D, Italy simply must win and win well this week to be any hope of salvaging an unlikely finals berth in this year's World Cup. After a shaky 36-12 loss to Ireland in Round 1, the Azzuri bounced back last week with a comfortable 46-0 thumping of the USA. Whilst making 14 errors, Cameron Ciraldo's side managed 8 line breaks in last week's win and will be confident of building upon their momentum on Friday night.
Who to watch: For Fiji, look no further than the enigmatic Jarryd Hayne. The Gold Coast fullback's name has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, yet Hayne gave rugby league fans a glimpse of his best in last week's win over Wales. Hayne scored a try and set up three in an impressive outing. His deft short kicking game was also handy and his creative genius should be on full display on Friday night.
If Italy are to emerge unlikely victors on Friday night, it is crucial they win the battle up front. Therefore, the performance of the improving Paul Vaughan could prove key. Vaughan was typically strong last week with a try, line break and 159 running metres and will need to step up even more this week against a fearsome and skilful Fiji pack.
My tip: Everything is on the line for Italy and as a result Fiji may have to brace for their most competitive opponent yet. However, the Bati displayed last week that they have no difficulty maintaining their intensity for the full eighty minutes. Ultimately, Fiji will prove too strong. Fiji by 20.
1. Kevin Naiqama 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Taane Milne 4. Akuila Uate 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Jarryd Hayne 7. Henry Raiwalui 8. Ashton Sims 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Eloni Vunakece 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Brayden Wiliame 13. Tui Kamikamica 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Junior Roqica 17. Ben Nakubuwai 18. James Storer
2. Mason Cerruto 20. Richard Lepori 18. Christophe Calegri 4. Nathan Milone 5. Josh Mantellato 6. Terry Campese 1. James Tedesco 8. Paul Vaughan 9. Joey Tramontana 10. Daniel Alvaro 17. Jayden Walker 12. Mark Minichiello 13. Nathan Brown 7. Ryan Ghietti 11. Joel Riethmuller 15. Brendan Santi 16. Shannon Wakeman