Wales’ walking wounded can tough it out against Fiji

Loss of Nemani Nadolo and Nikola Matawalu to prove a major blow for Pacific Islanders

POOL A: Wales v Fiji, Millennium stadium, 4.45 (Live on TV3, UTV)

"It's a tough tournament, isn't it?" Warren Gatland, the ultimate survivor, was actually talking about Fiji. The Pacific Islanders almost lit up opening night of this tough tournament. England survived that one but not the next.

Nemani Nadolo is suspended tonight. Arguably the game's greatest winger, the Canterbury Crusaders star was cited for neck rolling Australia's David Pocock.

Charged with a tip tackle (rule 10.4 j) judicial officer Christopher Quinlan QC (England) was not satisfied that it was above the horizontal (because it wasn’t), but upheld the citing on the basis that the player had committed an act of foul play contrary to rule 10.4 (e) – a dangerous tackle above the line of the shoulders.


Diarmuid Connolly’s SC would have had a field day.

It all feels so cruel. Factor in the loss of Bath's new scrumhalf Nikola Matawalu (back) and Fiji have been stripped of their two best players.

Granted, Wales are hardly without injury problems. Gatland has dipped into the valleys to find another giant centre in the shape of 6ft 3in, 16 stone-plus Tyler Morgan. Scott Williams' World Cup is over, so this is Jamie Roberts' fourth-string midfield partner.

Five days after that epic and unlikely victory at Twickenham and Roberts, Dan Biggar and Gareth Davies are required on deck this evening. Same goes for pack regulars Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau.

This seemed like a ready-made 80 minutes for Luke Charteris and Justin Tipuric, so the pair of them will definitely arrive after half-time.

Gatland has already had a dry run for this quick turnaround, when only putting his men through their paces for two days before playing Ireland in Dublin in August. It worked then and should now.

With Liam Williams recovering from concussion there is a debut at fullback in Matthew Morgan that Gatland couldn't possibly have factored into his thinking.

At 5ft 7in and 12 stone 7 lbs, this Morgan is more Shane Williams than one of the new breed. An outhalf by trade, he has displayed the same dancing feet on brief sightings for Bristol. "Warren just said that I should go out there and express myself."

Of avoiding the 10-inch and eight-stone mismatch with Nadolo, Morgan said: “Anyone would be glad. I think they will miss him.” The tournament misses him. He’s a superstar.

The Welsh suffered a shock at the hands of Fiji in Nantes during the 2007 World Cup, and were caught cold in Cardiff by Samoa in 1991. Those painful lessons have presumably been learned.

Wales to win with some comfort but no bonus point, and they will probably need to add a seventh player to their panel ahead of the Wallaby game on October 10th.

Room only for the toughest now.

WALES: M Morgan; A Cuthbert, T Morgan, J Roberts, G North; D Biggar, G Davies; G Jenkins, S Baldwin, T Francis; B Davies, A-W Jones; D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau. Replacements: K Owens, A Jarvis, S Lee, L Charteris, J Tipuric, L Williams, R Priestland, J Hook.
FIJI: M Talebula; T Nagusa, V Goneva, L Botia, A Tikoirotuma; B Volavola, N Kenatale; C Ma'afu, S Koto, M Saulo, T Cavubati, L Nakarawa, D Waqaniburotu, A Qera (capt), N Talei. Replacements: V Veikoso, P Ravia, L Atalifo, N Soqeta, M Ravulo, H Seniloli, J Matavesi, K Murimurivalu.
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent