Pocock double sets up Wallabies' opening World Cup win

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by Beth Newman

David Pocock proved it doesn’t matter what number he wears on his back, with a scintillating first-half performance setting up a 28-13 Wallabies Rugby World Cup victory over Fiji at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Pocock turned in a man of the match performance at number eight, including two first-half tries off the back of rolling mauls.

Australia’s strong opening half set up the win over the Flying Fijians, as they joined England and Wales as first-up winners in Pool A.

The Fijians showed their improvement, though, in what was the closest margin between the two sides since a 16-3 Australia win in 1984 in Suva.

The Wallabies showed their intent early, taking an opportunity to run the ball from the first play and Pocock forced a turnover in just the second minute of the game.

A penalty against Fiji for an illegal tackle on Matt Giteau gave Bernard Foley the chance for the first points of the match in the ninth minute, putting Australia up 3-0.

The Wallabies survived an early Fijian attacking barrage but their opponents’ improved scrummaging drew the first scrum penalty of the night in the 17th minute.

Another came two minutes later as the Wallabies were penalised for collapsing a maul.

Pocock scored a crucial try against the run of play in the 26th minute, crashing over the line after a penalty for a high tackle on Israel Folau five metres from Australia’s try line.

A yellow card to Campese Ma’afu in the 31st minute helped continue the momentum shift Australia’s way and within 30 seconds of the prop heading to the bin, Pocock was over for another.

Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu kept the rolling maul going this time from an Australian lineout, setting up Pocock’s second try in three minutes and giving the Wallabies a 15-3 lead before half-time.

A Bernard Foley penalty goal opened the gap on Fiji to an 18-3 two minutes before the break.

Just two minutes on the other side of half-time, prop Sekope Kepu showed great mobility and power as he crossed for the Wallabies' third try, after a pivotal run from Israel Folau.

Kepu ran on to a pass and barged his way through a gap and over the line, wrestling the momentum well and truly Australia’s way.

The halves pairing of Will Genia and Bernard Foley showed promise in their first match as a starting combination.

Fiji hung in, with a dangerous attacking passage midway through the second half and they reaped the rewards with a try to flyhalf Ben Volavola.

The Wallabies’ lineout was under threat in that second half, with the Australians losing four of their own.

Volavola rolling over the line after wrong footing Wallabies locks Kane Douglas and Rob Simmons with a trademark dummy.

In a late blow to Australia, replacement prop James Slipper after a shoulder to his chin saw him forced off under the concussion policy.

Outside centre Tevita Kuridrani’s night was also ended early after a 73rd minute yellow card for not releasing opponent and cousin, Nemani Nadolo, in a tackle.

Wallabies vice-captain Michael Hooper was as busy as ever, leading the tackle count for the Australians with 22, six clear of back row partner Pocock who finished with 16.

Israel Folau was dangerous in attack in his Rugby World Cup debut, gaining 90 metres including seven carries across the gain-line. Pocock forced three turnovers to lead that category, while Fiji finished the match with 53% of possession compared with Australia's 47%.

The win puts Australia in third place in Pool A behind England and Wales, who both scored bonus points in their opening matches.

The Wallabies will next play Uruguay on Sunday (9pm AEST) at Villa Park, Birmingham.

Australia 28 (David Pocock 2, Sekope Kepu tries; Bernard Foley 2 cons; 3 pens) defeated Fiji 13 (Ben Volavola try; Nemani Nadolo conversion, 2 pens).

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