Fiji turned Wales loss into Australia win with fewer carries
20 September, 2023, 7:24 am
By Nick Mulvenney
SAINT-ETIENNE (Reuters) – Fiji’s stunning upset of Australia at the World Cup on Sunday was achieved despite the Pacific islanders carrying the ball half as often as they did in their dramatic opening loss to Wales.
The Fijians had only 88 carries but they were highly effective and they still boast the highest tally of dominant collisions (45) per game after beating a Wallabies side with second-worst tackle success ratio (77%) of the 20 teams.
With Fiji spending only 24 seconds inside the Australian 22-metre line, the key to the victory was the place-kicking performance of scrumhalf Simione Kuruvoli, who nailed five from five, including two penalties from more than 40 metres.
When it comes to punishing teams for ill-discipline, however, pragmatic hosts France have no peers with 21 points from penalties in their two Pool A wins over New Zealand and Uruguay, according World Rugby’s technical analysis.
The difficulty they had subduing the South Americans in Lille may have been down in part to Los Teros winning 51% of the collisions in the match, the second best in the round.
Kicking away possession has also been an effective tactic in the opening two rounds with high temperatures making the sweat-soaked ball slippery and harder to catch.
England have been the most enthusiastic adopters, kicking away an astonishing 84% of their possession in their wins over Argentina and Japan in Pool D.
Top ranked Ireland dominate the offensive numbers after big wins over Romania and Tonga, although any excitement over their attacking prowess might be put on hold until they face world champions South Africa in Pool B in round three.
The Irish boast the only average ruck speed under three seconds and average the most carries (148) and metres made (826) per game.
New Zealand have matched the Irish in line-breaks (29) over their first two games and lead the tournament in successfully getting over the gainline (64%) after a loss to France and a comfortable win over Namibia.
Wales still top the tackle stats after their remarkable defensive performance in their Pool C opener against Fiji with a total tally of 365 in the wake of their win over Portugal.
Of the top individual performers after the opening two rounds, hard-working Ireland centre Bundee Aki leads the way in tries (4), carries (39), linebreaks (7) and run metres (375).
The boot of England’s George Ford unsurprisingly dominates the individual kicking stats with the flyhalf having kicked for nearly 1,000 metres from hand over the first two rounds. He is also the leading scorer with 41 points from penalties and drop goals and has missed only one shot at goal so far.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Christian Radnedge)