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'The gap is closing': Wallabies on notice after Fiji's shock win over England

By AAP
Semi Radradra of Fiji breaks with the ball during the Summer International match between England and Fiji at Twickenham Stadium on August 26, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The Wallabies have been given a stark reminder their passage into the knockout rounds at the Rugby World Cup is far from assured after Fiji shocked England in their warm-up clash.

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The Australians have their own pre-tournament hit-out against hosts France in Paris early Monday morning (AEST) but performances from their Pool C rivals have put the Wallabies on notice.

Fiji, who Australia face in their second pool match in Saint-Etienne, defeated England for the first time, scoring three sensational tries in a 30-22 victory at Twickenham.

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Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui, hailed the Drua’s participation in Super Rugby Pacific as a major boost for his island nation.

“The Drua has been huge for us, we’ve been able to expose 40 to 50 players to playing at the highest level in Super Rugby,” Raiwalui told reporters after the England win.

“The gap is closing.

“People think of Fijian-style rugby as throwing it around but it’s also about collisions and being the best side we can be.”

The Wallabies open their World Cup campaign against Georgia on Sunday September 10 (AEST) with the world No.11 side giving Scotland a scare in their final warm-up.

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Georgia led 6-0 at halftime at Murrayfield before the Scots scored five second-half tries – including one from ex-Wallabies No.8 Jack Dempsey – to secure a 33-6 victory.

The Georgians showed plenty of energy and organisation for the first 40 minutes but could not sustain their effort.

The eighth-ranked Wallabies also face pool clashes with Wales and Portugal, who an Australia A team downed 30-17 over the weekend, with the top two teams moving on to the quarter-finals.

Australia’s vice-captain Tate McDermott said his team were excited to face the French at Stade de France, which the venue for their clash with Georgia and also hosts the World Cup final.

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He said it was an ideal dress rehearsal, with the France and Georgia games being played under English referee Luke Pearce.

“It could not have worked out any better, we have the same referee, the same field – everything from logistics to what the stadium will sound like is going to be important (to experience ahead of the Georgia game),” the halfback said at the Wallabies’ final training run.

“It’s a perfect opportunity for us to test ourselves against another quality opposition in France.

“We know what to expect – it’s going to be World Cup-like in terms of atmosphere and the pressure that comes with that.”

McDermott said they expected the French pack to provide a stern test before taking on Georgia, who pride themselves on their set-piece play.

“There will be times in the game, up against a really strong French pack, where we will be under the pump,” he said.

“It’s about dealing with those momentum shifts; it’s going to be crucial come World Cup time.

“The physicality aspect is going to be massive (against France) and it starts up front.”

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