2019 RWC hosts Japan will kick off their Pacific Nations Cup campaign against the current Pacific Nations reigning champions Fiji at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium on the 27th of July 2019 as from 14:50 local time. Japan last won the trophy in 2014 when it was split into two conferences and will be looking to wrestle the cup off Fiji which has won four in a row since then. This test match will also serve as a litmus test for Japan’s preparedness to host the RWC later in September. With both teams having qualified for the World Cup, this match will provide invaluable preparation for either side with September just a couple of weeks away.
Just like the other four teams, Japan and Fiji will play three matches each in this year’s edition in a cross-pool format. Japan will play host to Fiji (27th July) and Tonga (3rd Aug) before flying to Fiji to face Samoa on the 10th of August 2019. Likewise, Fiji will start away to Japan (27th July) then play Canada at the ANZ Stadium in Fiji on the 3rd of August, after which they’ll face Samoa on the 10th of August at the same venue.
In their most recent game, Japan gave away a first lead and ended up losing 35-15 at the final whistle. England had scored an early converted try via Danny Care but Yu Tamura’s field goal reduced the deficit before Ryoto Nakamura crossed the line to give Japan the lead. Michael Leitch scored another try to extend the lead and the game was 15-10 at the break. However, Mark Wilson, Joe Cokanasiga, and Dylan Hartley scored 3 unanswered tries for England to cap a fine comeback for the English side.
Fiji on the other hand were 14-21 winners against France in their most recent game in the November 2018 Internationals. Fiji were the 1st to get on the scoresheet when Radradra crossed the whitewash but Guirado answered with a French try. Tuisova scored another try for Fiji but for the 2nd time, Guirado replied with another try for the Les Bleus. Fiji converted only one try compared to France’s two but they won the game at full time due to three 2nd half Volavola penalties.
Japan have won just once in the past 5 matches, a 28-0 triumph over Georgia in their last June test match. They had lost to Italy before that and they also lost against the World XV, New Zealand, and England respectively in the Autumn Internationals. Having lost by 31-69 against the All Blacks, Japan showed a good fighting spirit in their next game as they stunned England at Twickenham in the opening half but came crumbling down in the 2nd period.
Fiji, on the other hand, have won three and lost two of their previous five outings preceding this game. Having beat Georgia by 37-15, the Flying Fijians lost two in a row against Tonga and Scotland respectively before steadying their ship and winning two on the bounce. Fiji totally dismantled Georgia by 68-7 in a statement win before beating France away from home.
Head to Head
Japan has faced Fiji 17 times and managed to win only 3 times. Fiji has a superior head-to-head record over Japan having won 14 of the 17 games with no game ending in a draw ever. Fiji has won the last 5 meetings in a row with Japan’s most recent win over Fiji coming on June 5, 2012 when they beat them by 25-19. On average, Japan have managed to score 18.35 points against Fiji while Fiji have managed to put 27.71 points on average past Japan.
Michael Leitch will be captaining the Brave Blossoms again and will be looking to lead from the front. Additionally, the experienced Yu Tamura makes the squad and he will be looking to impress as players campaign to make the final WC squad. Another player to keep tabs on is young winger Ataata Moeakiola who made a name for himself in the 2016 u20 World Rugby Championship.
Meanwhile, Fiji will be looking at their experienced quartet led by Doncaster Knights scrum half Henry Seniloli, Frank Lomani, Serupepeli Vularika, and Glasgow Warriors’ Nikola Matawalu to guide them to victory in this game.
Having won the past two matches, Fiji are favourites against the Brave Blossoms who are winless in the past three. Coupled with the superior head-to-head advantage, this should be another win for the South Pacific side.
Japan 18-27 Fiji.