Preview: Fiji v USA

Date published: November 22 2014

Fiji came close to a huge upset in Cardiff last week but they’ll need to show more ambition against the USA in Vannes.

Fiji came close to a huge upset in Cardiff last week but they’ll need to show more ambition against the USA in Vannes.

A four-point defeat to Wales while playing half the game a man down is more than respectable for John McKee’s side, but there’s still a feeling that they are not making the most of their dangerous strike runners.

Their three-quarter line, might be a little unbalanced, with every outside back named arguably more at home on the wing, but there’s no denying that in terms of attacking talent there are few teams who can match them.

And yet over the last two games, Fiji have kicked the ball away 47 times, often on turnover ball when there were much better options available to them.

Bringing in Henry Seniloli for Nikola Matawalu might have an impact in that regard. The Glasgow scrum-half is a livewire, but seemed to be constantly kicking away possession, while Seniloli seemed happier to feed his backs and let them play.

For the USA, this game sees the return of a couple of key players in Taku Ngwenya and Todd Clever, but they are missing Premiership stars such as Samu Manoa, Chris Wyles and Blaine Scully.

Their only win over Fiji came 15 years ago in San Francisco, and against an improving Fijian pack, it’s difficult to see them doing the same again this time.

After a promising win over Romania, they were able to stay competitive for a half against Tonga before being blown away. Fiji should be another level up, and if the game opens up, it could be quite one-sided.

Ones to watch:

For Fiji: With all their options out wide, it’s inevitable that Fiji will leave some very good players on the sidelines. In their first two Tests Timoci Nagusa has had to settle for a place on the bench, but the Montpellier speedster will get his chance this weekend after being named at full-back. His try against France a fortnight ago showed how difficult to stop he is when he gets the ball in space, and he could make hay against the Eagles. He just needs to hope that Fiji play with a little more ambition than we’ve seen so far in November.

For USA: He missed last week’s defeat against Tonga but Takudzwa Ngwenya, remains the Eagles’ biggest attacking threat. He might spend more time defending than in attack in this game, but any opportunities he does get will be gratefully accepted. It’s been a slow start to the season for Ngwenya, who is still waiting for his first try for Biarritz. He went over after just three minutes against Romania a fortnight ago though, so expect him to carry that form into this game.

Head-to-head: The Eagles might not be at full strength but the return of Todd Clever to skipper the side from number eight is a major boost. The experienced back rower will have a tough battle on his hands however, with Masi Matadigo starting for the third time in as many games for Fiji. The Lyon number eight is part of an experienced Fijian back row, and provides yet another carrying option for John McKee’s side. Clever will have to ensure that he is kept quiet if the USA are to stop Fiji opening up and bringing their dangerous backline into play.

Prediction: Fiji have been more conservative than usual so far this November, but this might be the game where they open up against an understrength US team. Expect the backs to run in a few tries. Fiji by 14!

Previous results:

2013: Fiji won 35-10 in Nagoya
2003: Fiji won 19-18 in Brisbane
2000: Fiji won 37-21 in Apia
1999: USA won 25-14 in San Francisco
1998: Fiji won 18-9 in Suva

The teams:

Fiji: 15 Timoci Nagusa, 14 Watisoni Votu, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Nemani Nadolo, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Josh Matavesi, 9 Henry Seniloli, 8 Masi Matadigo, 7 Malakai Ravulo, 6 Akapusi Qera (c), 5 Tevita Cavubati, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 1 Peni Ravai
Replacements: 16 Sunia Koto, 17 Isei Colatei, 18 Tanielo Koroi, 19 Nemia Soqeta, 20 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 21 Nemia Kenatale, 22 Jonetani Ralulu, 23 Waisea Nayacalevu

USA: 15 Ronald McLean, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Tim Stanfill, 10 Shalom Suniula, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Todd Clever, 7 John Quill, 6 Scott LaValla, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 John Cullen, 3 Mate Moeakiola, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Olive Kilifi
Replacements: 16 Tom Coolican, 17 Nick Wallace, 18 Benjamin Tarr, 19 Matt Trouville, 20 Kyle Sumsion, 21 Roland Suniula, 22 Andrew Suniula, 23 Tim Maupin

Date: Friday, November 21
Venue: Stade de le Rabine, Vannes
Kickoff: 19:00 local (18:00 GMT)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Gary Conway (Ireland)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)