Strike centre Samu Kerevi is hungry for more game time as the Wallabies prepare to tackle Fiji in a critical Rugby World Cup clash in Saint-Etienne.
On the comeback from serious hand and knee injuries, Kerevi was eased back into action in Australia’s opening pool match in Paris against Georgia, playing only 41 minutes.
Coach Eddie Jones said the plan was to give Kerevi a hit-out to ensure he was ready to line up against the impressive Pacific islanders.
While the match on Sunday (Monday AEST) is special for Fiji-born Kerevi, it has major ramifications for Australia.
Fiji fell to Wales in a thriller in their first pool game, meaning that barring any major upsets, a win by the Wallabies will see them and the Welsh advance to the quarter-finals.
Kerevi said it was tough to have to depart the Stade de France field just after halftime but it was all part of the plan around his return, having not played since breaking his hand against New Zealand in early August.
“I didn’t want to overload my body so they had a great plan around it and 40 minutes was part of it,” the 29-year-old said.
“It was hard to stay disciplined because I felt I could keep going.”
The Wallabies need 108kg Kerevi at his tackle-busting best against Fiji, who shocked England in a World Cup warm-up.
Fiji had a chance to snatch victory over Wales but former NRL star Semi Radradra knocked on close to the line in the dying seconds, condemning his team to a 32-26 loss.
They will prove a handful for Australia’s defence – making the most carries of any team in the opening round of the tournament and ranked third for defenders beaten.
One of seven players with Fiji ties in the Wallabies squad, Kerevi, who moved to Australia when he was four, said he was excited to line up against his birth country.
“It’s definitely special playing your home country because Fiji holds a special place in our heart,” he said.
“But once you put on the jersey we’re Australians and we’re excited for the challenge.”
Australia have lost to Fiji twice playing in Sydney – in 1952 and 1954 – while the countries have squared off at three World Cups including the last two.
In 2019 in Japan, the Australians trailed by nine points after 46 minutes but then scored 27 unanswered points for a 39-21 victory.
Kerevi was part of the starting line-up, scoring a try in the second half blitz.
Now with Fiji Drua in Super Rugby Pacific, Kerevi says the island nation is even more dangerous.
“I think a big part of it is in Drua and I think (Drua coach) Mick Byrne has done a great job down there growing that grassroots level and keeping the team together because you see the combinations they have,” he said.
“A lot of it has come from Drua and has transitioned over to the Fiji team, which has played well and you saw the result against England.”
The Wallabies will name their team to face Fiji on Friday with at least one change with halfback Tate McDermott missing due to concussion protocols.
Jones is tossing up whether to continue with goal-kicking ace Ben Donaldson, who was man of the match in their opening pool win against Georgia, at fullback or revert to his previous first choice Andrew Kellaway.
SOURCE: RUGBY PASS/PACNEWS