The Rugby World Cup 2019 heads to the northern island of Hokkaido on Saturday where Australia begin their campaign against Oceania neighbours Fiji at the Sapporo Dome.
Rugby fever has swept across the nation with the home nation beating Russia 30-10 in the opening game at Tokyo Stadium.
The Wallabies head into their opener with a lot of momentum after beating New Zealand in August. However, Michael Chieka’s men have not achieved any significant success after losing their 2015 final to the All Blacks and had their worst year on record in 2018 winning only four of their 13 tests.
Nevertheless, many bookmakers favour the two-time winners to reach the final for the fifth time in their history.
Chieka has named two-time John Eales Medal winner, Michael Hooper, as captain for the campaign and he is reported to be paired with David Pocock in the back row for the opening fixture.
Young second-rower Izack Rodda is tipped to be a hot prospect for future Australia sides and is a potential dark horse for the tournament. Chieka started him for every game in 2018 and his performances have repaid the faith shown in him.
Underdogs Fiji have a mountain to climb if they are to begin their campaign with points on the board. Head Coach, John McKee, has been with the Warriors since 2015 and has guided them to two World Cup finals and a global top 10 ranking.
Loose forward Dominiko Waqaniburotu will lead the team out as skipper. He lead the Warriors to two victories against Samoa and Canada in this year's Pacific Nations Cup, only losing to Japan.
Interestingly, former Rugby League player Semi Radradra will start on the wing instead of his usual center position.
Despite being World Cup regulars, qualifying for all but one edition, their previous two meetings with the Wallabies have not produced the desired result. Their recent form is somewhat more encouraging with McKee’s men winning five of their last six fixtures.
The stats are likely to sway opinion towards an Australian victory. However, both terms are on good form and the magic of the World Cup may make an upset more likely than most might think.Published 21 Sep 2019, 09:11 IST