5 mins: Kamikamica with a smash of a tackle on Holmes, who loses the ball. Good start by Fiji. Nothing in it so far, in fact you’d have to say the visitors are edging it slightly. Early doors though.
3 mins: Australia with their first set manage to make it all way up to the 10m mark. The kick deflects off a Fijian foot and goes out. It wasn’t played at though so it’s a Fiji feed in.
2 mins: Some push and shove after a high shoulder on Slater. Fiji are very much fired up, the Kangaroos are firing back. Discipline could prove a factor tonight.
1 min: Smith gets things started with the boot. Sims with a nice offload as they make some early inroads. They’ll certainly need to produce something special to get through this Kangaroos defence.
That’s the singing over. It’s business time. Australia to kick things off.
I’m sure I just saw a bunch of Tonga fans in the crowd. For a second I had one of those bloggers’ nightmares, when you suddenly think you’ve been talking about the wrong semi-final for the last 20 minutes.
Here they come, strolling onto the pitch to a chorus of cheers and the low buzz of an amped-up didgeridoo. Anthems coming up.
Remember when I said overconfidence could potentially be a chink in the Kangaroos’ armour? Well Meninga hasn’t been too happy with how training went earlier this week. That said, apparently there was a big improvement for their final session.
Much as I’ve been waffling on about Hayne, Fiji are hardly a one-man team. They have a powerful forward pack and a backline that includes Akuila Uate, Kevin Naiqama and Suliasi Vunivalu. Restricting the Kiwis to just two points was no mean feat, and in Mick Potter they have a very shrewd coach. At the very least they should pose a few uncomfortable questions for the Kangaroos.
It’s a fairly cool night in Brisbane. Just under 23C. The fans seem happy enough.
Hayne v Meninga
A lot has been said about Australia’s immense defence – for the record, they’ve conceded 10 points in four games this tournament, and head into the semis on the back of two shutouts – but if there’s one player capable of producing a bit of magic to get Fiji over the line, it’s the rejuvenated Jarryd Hayne. Not only that, but he’ll be feeling pretty fired up considering Mal Meninga uses every chance he gets to mention how Hayne wasn’t playing well enough to get in the Kangaroos side. Even this week he couldn’t help himself.
“He’s their control man, Fiji’s getting through their sets and he’s putting a good kick in or controlling the ends of sets really well,” Meninga trumpeted. “He can play anywhere, Jarryd. He can play one, he can play centre, wing, which he does at rep level, and six for Fiji. He’s that type of player, he’s a great individual, a great talent and he can play a number of positions. He wasn’t playing well enough to make our squad.”
We get it Mal, you can stop now.
Evening everyone, I hope you’ve still got your work clothes on because we’re now entering the business end of the Rugby League World Cup. We’re down to four teams with each side just two games away from glory – although Fiji’s win over New Zealand last time out means they’ll take home a decent slice of the glory pie regardless of tonight’s result. That shock win in Wellington also means this is the first time since the World Cup expanded in 1995 that the Big Three haven’t featured in the final four. Good for the sport, great for the Kangaroos, not so good for David Kidwell.
Can Fiji spring another, even more mahoosive, shock tonight? In the words of that bald guy from Princess Bride – inconceivable. If the Kangaroos line-up wasn’t formidable enough, the history books make pretty grim reading for Fiji. The Fiji v Australia semi-finals at the previous two World Cups produced wince-inducing scorelines – with the Kangaroos romping home 52-0 in 2008 and 64-0 in 2013. Obviously, the eligibility situation has been tweaked just a tad since then. For starters, Jarryd Hayne scored three tries for the Kangaroos in the 2013 clash – now he’s lining up against them. Will an injection of world-class talent be enough for Fiji to spring their biggest surprise yet? A win might still be beyond them at this stage – but if they manage to make a game of it against the dominant force in rugby league, it will represent a huge leap forward for Mick Potter’s men.
On the other side of the pitch, bowing out gracefully in the semi-finals, or the final for that matter, is simply not an option for the Kangaroos. Anything less than back-to-back World Cups will be deemed a failure. And rightly so. The Kangaroos have so much talent to burn they occasionally set off smoke alarms. Overconfidence could be an issue. They might even be undercooked, having not been seriously tested since the opening game against England last month. But with this sort of quality at their disposal, it shouldn’t matter. Whether that’s how it pans out remains to be seen.
Richard will be here shortly. In the meantime, have a read of this by Nick Tedeschi, on the latest incumbent of the New South Wales hot seat: