The Wallabies have suffered their first-ever loss to Fiji at the Rugby World Cup, going down 22-15 in a shock result for Eddie Jones' side on Monday morning (Aussie time). The undermanned Wallabies couldn't match it with the Pacific islanders' pace and power, and their hopes of progressing out of their group are now hanging by a thread.
Australia hadn't lost to Fiji in 69 years before Monday's boilover, and had never lost to them at the World Cup. The Wallabies are now third in their pool after two games, with Wales in first on 10 points, Fiji second on six and Australia also on six.
Australia have never failed to progress to the knockout stage of a World Cup, and Jones is confident his side can avoid the embarrassing feat. The Wallabies will take on the undefeated Welsh next Sunday (Monday Aussie time).
"The great thing about a World Cup is it's not the end of the road and we've got Wales next week, so we need to kick some stones tonight, work out where we can improve quickly and get on with it," Jones said. "I've got no doubt we get a response. We've had a bit of a setback today but that's all part of being in a World Cup."
Captain Will Skelton (calf) and spearhead prop Taniela Tupou (hamstring) both won't be available for the clash against Wales in another brutal blow for the Wallabies. Without the barnstorming pair, the Wallabies lacked the big ball-carriers to punch through the steely Fijian defence and couldn't use their set-piece to dominate as they did in their opening win over Georgia.
The Wallabies were hit with a whopping 18 penalties, with a final scrum penalty after full-time almost costing them a crucial bonus point. However Frank Lomani's kick sailed wide of the posts in a miss that could prove pivotal in deciding who progresses out of the group.
"When you're not on the front foot it's quite easy to give away penalties," Jones said. "So I'm not worried about our discipline, I'm worried about not getting on the front foot because if you can't you're battling."
Wallabies fans fume over 'embarrassing' scenes
Fiji won 11 turnovers on Monday as the Wallabies missed 23 tackles. Fiji halfback Simione Kuruvoli nailed four penalties to give his side a 12-8 lead at half-time.
The Wallabies opened the scoring through a penalty goal from Ben Donaldson in the third minute, and then took advantage of a suspect turnover by lock Richie Arnold. Halfback Nic White booted a 50:22 and Mark Nawaqanitawase caught former NRL winger Semi Radradra napping, taking a quick throw-in to Samu Kerevi who passed it back inside for Nawaqanitawase to score.
But the second half was a horror show for the Wallabies as Josua Tuisova charged over for Fiji early. The blockbusting centre was gifted the ball after Nawaqanitawase and rookie five-eighth Carter Gordon couldn't clean up a high kick after some confusion about who would take it.
Jones took Gordon off in the 49th minute, bringing on former NRL winger Suliasi Vunivalu, shifting Nawaqanitawase to fullback and Donaldson to 10 as he tried to kick-start the attack. "We needed to get some momentum," Jones said. "I thought the changes were positive and put us back in the game."
Fiji extended their lead to 22-8 in the 66th minute through a Lomani penalty, before Vunivalu gave Wallabies fans a glimmer of hope when he slammed the ball over the line, with Donaldson adding the extras to close the gap to seven points.
But the Wallabies kept cruelling themselves with penalties and turnovers, and Fiji hung on for a historic victory. Fiji now have a two-week break before they face winless Georgia in Bordeaux. They are looking to make the knockout phase for the first time since 2007.
The whole system is a joke
— Matt Vandenberg (@M1D3V) September 17, 2023
So sad to see a world class pedigree team looking like a 2nd tier team , no flair , no confidence, no heart . Massive build and investment over the next 4 years , get that cheque book out and get the best league players into ur team Asap .
— Paul (@teaguestar) September 17, 2023
The Carter Gordan experiment was total arrogance by Jones. Zero experience and miles off the pace… Just when I didn’t think @AustralianRugby could get any worse….
— Josh (@jpozglobal) September 17, 2023
Absolutely shocking. Eddie Jones made some horrible calls on this squad selection firstly and in how we want to play. Michael Hooper and Quade had the experience needed to navigate such team. It’s glaringly obvious that there is zero leadership on the park!
— Mamiala (@MamialaMamiala) September 17, 2023
— Andrew Moore (@AndyMoore123) September 17, 2023
That was awful. Fiji absolutely deserved winners. Wallabies absolutely deserved to lose.
— Jack Quigley (@Jack_Quigley) September 17, 2023
Fair play to @fijirugby, definitely the better team today, but the @wallabies discipline was again appalling. Gave away the ball & penalties everywhere. An embarrassing, shambolic performance. Selections also questionable. Much work to do over the next 4 years. #RWC #AUSvFIJ https://t.co/awQRNaVTGl
— Raymond Nolan (@raymondnolan81) September 17, 2023
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