Smith tips the Flying Fijians

LONDON – Australian legend George Smith has sensationally tipped Fiji to deliver the opening shock of the World Cup by dumping Wales and England out of the tournament.

Hosts England, twice champions Australia, Wales, Fiji and minnows Uruguay go head-to-head in the so-called group of death, with only the top two finishers progressing to the knockout stage.

Most people expect a three-way dogfight between the big three but Australian and world rugby great Smith believes Pool A will be a four-way shoot-out.

And he predicted Fiji would make it through, as runners-up to newly-crowned Rugby Championship kings Australia.

“It’s going to be extremely competitive in, as they say, the pool of death. The English and Welsh, from what I’m led to believe, have been training extremely well while Australia have won the Rugby Championship.

“But I think Fiji are going to go through with Australia.

“I played against a number of their players in the French Top 14 last season while I was with Lyon and they are very good,” declared 111-times capped Smith.

Fiji recently beat a Samoa team, that a few weeks earlier had given New Zealand a real Test, in the final of the Pacific Nations Cup.

The last time they met Wales, Warren Gatland’s men scraped a 17-13 win in November 2014 but they did demolish the Fijians 66-0 at the last World Cup.

Smith though, believes their World Cup pedigree is good.

“Apart from in 2011, Fiji seem to perform well in World Cup tournaments. They put the Welsh out in 2007 and nearly beat the eventual champions South Africa in the quarter-finals,” pointed out Smith.

“Anybody who underestimates Fiji will be in trouble. I have known their coach John McKee for a number of years and have been impressed in how he brings players together and manages them.

“With Fiji that is the key because when they are happy they perform. John is very good at that, as you can see from the results because they have performed well and improved in the last couple of years.

Smith, a World Cup ambassador for Land Rover, believes the Wallabies will top the pool and reach the final.

“I think they have prepared well and have got the players to do that. They play well as a team and it shows the respect the players have got for the coach Michael Cheika that they all want to play for him.”

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