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I want Australia to win but I can see Fiji beating them – Adam Jones

By Adam Jones
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

This Rugby World Cup is brilliant. You don’t realise how big these tournaments are when you play in them. You’re in your own bubble and don’t really appreciate what is going on. It’s only after you finish playing that you become more aware, and France are doing it well. They have got some fantastic stadiums, great weather and a massive rugby fanbase. It’s brilliant, but I just hope the refereeing and the interpretation of the rules don’t cause too much of a stink.

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Let’s not beat around the bush regarding Wales, who kick off on Saturday in Nice at just around the same time Harlequins finish the Premiership Rugby Cup match at home to Coventry. Wales should beat Portugal and should beat them handily. There is a lot of talent in there. Look at the centres with Johnny Williams and young Mason Grady, young kids but big, big Warren Gatland sort of players.

It’s a chance for these boys to get on the field, get some minutes and show they are ready if they are needed later in the tournament as even if they put 60 or 70 points on Portugal, I imagine Gatland is going to revert to the first-choice team next weekend against Australia.

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Still, you have got to out and put your best foot forward and not perform like France did. In fairness, Uruguay were brilliant on Thursday night. They did incredibly well but you would still have backed France to have won a little more comfortably with the squad they have got, so the onus now will be on these Wales boys putting as much pressure on the coaches as the guys who are usually starting.

Wales were comfy last weekend against Fiji for 65 minutes. There were no issues, they were way ahead, and I don’t really know what happened. Fiji got back into it through the sort of things you don’t associate with them, the scrum and pick-and-go stuff they were doing. They were good but when that last ball went over to Semi Radradra on the wing and he knocked it on, I was very glad.

Team Form

Last 5 Games

0
Wins
1
5
Streak
1
13
Tries Scored
9
-51
Points Difference
-125
2/5
First Try
2/5
2/5
First Points
0/5
2/5
Race To 10 Points
1/5

They would still have needed a kick to win. In fairness, I’m not a kicking expert but the kickers weren’t kicking great on the night. I imagine that Gatland will have gone hard on Wales around game management and whatnot, but that was the best I have seen the Welsh play in a long time.

They knew how Fiji defend and they picked holes, which was great to see, and then there was the driving maul try as well. It was a pretty good performance bar that last 10 minutes. Wales didn’t fall away so much around the fitness but certainly that last 10 minutes will need a bit of looking at.

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Going into the Six Nations, Wales weren’t confident coming off the back of a different regime but what Gatland does well is he galvanises the boys well, makes them believe in themselves, certainly the younger boys coming through. I’d imagine some of the older boys have seen it all before but what they all do is work hard.

Welsh boys traditionally empty themselves, put every ounce of effort into it and they will back themselves. They know they have got the confidence of Gatland and a big part of his DNA at Wasps or Wales when he first came in 2008, it was all about the fitness. The boys now know how fit they are after Fiji and they will take great confidence.

When you back yourself that much even if you are not playing well, you know you can grind and can stick in games. The impressive thing from the last World Cup was how Wales stuck in there with South Africa in the semi-finals because they were fit, because they kept going at them, and it won’t be any different this time.

It wasn’t a fitness issue when they played Fiji. It was hot but there was enough said about how hot Turkey was when they were training there. It was just how are they going to close the game out and the big challenge will be the Australia game next weekend in Lyon and how they deal with that.

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There is a big game this weekend, Fiji versus Australia, and that is massive for the pool. If Fiji win, it’s all back on again and all a bit open. As a Welshman, I would like Australia to win so it gives Wales a little more breathing space, but I can see Fiji beating them.

They must win it and don’t forget they have two bonus points from the Welsh game. They are in the mix, but they have to win. How Australia can strangle them, that could be a massive thing if they can. How you deal with some of the Fijian attack is a pretty hard thing to deal with, but I’d imagine the Aussie coaches have seen some holes in the defence and will try to exploit that.

Team Form

Last 5 Games

2
Wins
2
1
Streak
2
14
Tries Scored
12
-25
Points Difference
-1
2/5
First Try
1/5
3/5
First Points
1/5
2/5
Race To 10 Points
3/5

England versus Japan is the late game on Sunday in Nice and you’d like to think the English will beat them quite well. I can’t see it being that tight. You feel for Japan. Without having that Super Rugby club team, they are not the same Test team they were four years ago.

Although England didn’t score a try in their win over Argentina last weekend and their attack wasn’t functioning as well as they wanted, they were impressive and it was what you expect from an England team, dogged and difficult to attack against and a 10-man game with the 10 dropping drop goals.

It was a bit like England from years gone by when they were so successful. Rob Andrew would be kicking drop goals from everywhere behind that sort of lardy pack of forwards. Last week was kind of like that, to be fair.

Any time you have the nine or 10 putting the ball in front of you, making the opposition turn, was always great in my day as a big front rower. Getting three points off a drop goal was even better… it’s an old-fashioned thing you were taught as a kid, keep the ball in front of your forwards and they will keep working for you.

I thought George Ford was phenomenal and the English pack looked like what you would expect. Dan Cole did really well. Jamie George, (Ellis) Genge, they all put a shift in. (Courtney) Lawes, (Ben) Earl all these guys. It’s probably not the biggest English pack but when they get into that ‘us against them’ attitude and there was a lot of pressure on them, they came out well out of it and you have got to tip your hat off to the coaches.

Team Form

Last 5 Games

3
Wins
2
1
Streak
1
13
Tries Scored
15
-5
Points Difference
-19
2/5
First Try
1/5
2/5
First Points
1/5
1/5
Race To 10 Points
2/5

Looking at the World Cup in my specialist area, I do like how the Fijian scrum has come on. South Africa, that bomb squad is pretty formidable, pretty hard to deal with, but Malcolm Marx being out now is a massive blow for them. They were phenomenal, especially that second-half scrum performance against Scotland.

A lot has been talked about the Aussie scrum with Angus Bell and Taniela Tupou and you have got some hefty slabs of meat in behind them. They will be a massive challenge for Wales; how they deal with that size and power is going to be huge next weekend.

But what I do like is how Fiji, Tonga and Samoa now all have a good scrum. It’s not like before when you were struggling against some of these teams you could go back to that sort of game.

Everyone has got a really efficient scrum at least and a lot of teams are pretty good attacking it. Certainly, all these South Sea island boys playing in France and around the world are adept in the dark arts.

From a scrum purist’s point of view, it’s a competitive set-piece and even seeing Uruguay getting a bit of change out of the French, there are sort of no massive gaps I can see. What I have seen as well is the refs wanting a contest and when the ball is ready to play away, they let it play away.

Team Form

Last 5 Games

4
Wins
0
4
Streak
5
13
Tries Scored
5
29
Points Difference
-305
2/5
First Try
1/5
2/5
First Points
1/5
3/5
Race To 10 Points
0/5

The South African traffic lights thing in Marseille was a weird one. All that fuss before with Rassie Erasmus being on the pitch and carrying the water, he gets a message on. But these are World Cup-winning Test match players, there is only so much information you can get on and if they want to kick for goal and whatever, the coach can radio down to someone.

“I’m sure it’s seen as innovative but it’s a bit whatever for me. It’s not as if they have reinvented the wheel, it’s not as if they have found electricity or whatever. Okay, fine, they hold some lights up. Brilliant. Good on them. You see certain teams doing different things, doing different warm-ups in the Premiership… but if you want to get a message on you can get a message on. It’s not exactly the hardest thing in the world to do.

  • This Rugby World Cup guest column is brought to you in association with the renewed partnership between Harlequins and official trading partner Saxo, a global leader in online investing, for the 2023/2024 Gallagher Premiership season;
  • Aside from Wales legend and Harlequins coach Adam Jones, ex-Ireland hooker-turned-coach Jerry Flannery and England lock Joe Launchbury will also be writing columns over the course of the tournament.
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