Rugby World Cup legends Joe Roff (Australia), Waisale Serevi (Fiji), and Aurelien Rougerie (France) comment on match day seven at Rugby World Cup 2023
Australia great Joe Roff, who played on the wing for the Wallabies at three Rugby World Cups in 1995, 1999, and 2003, was generous in his praise of Fiji after the Pacific islanders overcame Australia 22-15 in a titanic battle in Saint-Etienne.
“Congratulations to Fiji, they were the better side on the night. This is a new Fiji, they are disciplined, they are athletic, they are cohesive. They would not be out of place at the pointy end of this tournament. They played very well, they outplayed Australia tonight.”
The loss leaves Australia needing a result against Wales in Lyon on Sunday, 24 September if they are to avoid missing out on the knock-out stages for the first time in Rugby World Cup history.
“This leaves Australia with backs to the wall but often that is when the character of the team shines through the best,” added Roff. “We know there is a mountain now and in certain respects next week becomes an elimination game. We start playing elimination games now, the team needs to dig in deep and I believe it has the character to do that.
Penalties and basic errors
“They will be disappointed with the number of penalties and the basic errors, the basic parts of the game that Australia prides itself on. There were elements that were up and down tonight and that showed on the penalty count. The team will restock early on in the week because you can’t afford to go into Wales with those sorts of statistics.”
Sitting not far from Roff at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard was former Fiji fly-half and rugby sevens legend, Waisale Serevi, who also played three editions of the tournament in 1991, 1999 and 2003.
“I am lost for words and I am so happy, this is the best thing ever. I know in sevens we win a lot but for Fiji this World Cup, I know we struggled against Wales – everyone was disappointed. To win here I thank God for giving the boys the power and the strength.
“We needed a win because this is a strong team, they have been playing well. We would have been very disappointed if we didn’t win today. For me I am so happy, I came to watch one game against Wales but I stayed to support our boys. I am so happy!
“Best Fiji ever” – Serevi
“I think it is the best team ever to play at the World Cup because we are going up and we have beaten Australia now. I believe that maybe we have won a game in the World Cup and going to the quarter-final, we still have two more games and the way we played today showed they can compete on this level. The Australia team are a good team but I think the boys were better today.
“They played to the plan, they played to the strengths of the game they wanted to play. They did everything right and they did compete at the breakdown which is not really the Fijian way of playing rugby.
“I believe the team that we have we can go through the quarter-final and we have every opportunity to get to the semi-final. If they have done this I believe we can go. We have two more games to play.”
Although watching as a more neutral fan, former France back Aurelien Rougerie also now believes Fiji could now go on to make a serious dent in Rugby World Cup 2023.
“It was an excellent game, it was a great atmosphere. It’s amazing for Fiji. I think Australia had a lot of opportunities to score but I don’t know why they kick a lot of balls and gave opportunities for Fiji to try and score, maybe it was their game plan. It is difficult to say but I am happy for Fiji. It is a real opportunity for Fiji to qualify for the quarter-final.”
There is no question though where Rougerie’s allegiances lie. “I hope we (France) win the tournament! I hope we can win against Italy. I hope France [can win at home], it’s a good opportunity.”
So does he wish he was still out there alongside Dupont and co? “Not really.”