"Hunt in threes": How the Wallabies plan to contain Semi and the flying Fijians

Rugby World Cup
by Iain Payten

How many people does it take to tackle Semi Radradra?

If you answered three, collect your prize at the door.

Or so reckons Wallabies utility Matt To'omua, who says Australia are planning to dampen the threat of the former Parramatta Eel dangerman - and most of the Fijian team for that matter - by hunting "in packs of threes”.

Radradra was one of the headline names named in a rocket-fuelled Fijian backline to take on the Wallabies in Sapporo on Saturday in the World Cup opener.

Despite being primarily a centre in French rugby, where he plays his trade, Radradra was named on the wing; the spot where he played a Test for Australia in rugby league in 2016.

Elsewhere in the Fijian backline, Rio gold medallist Josua Tuisova was also named on a wing; one of three Olympic sevens champs picked by John McKee, along with Leone Nakarawa and Viliame Mata.

Reece Hodge is the man with the task of marking Radradra, and To'omua joked they’d be flicking some YouTube homework to the Wallabies wing to make sure he was ready for the challenge.

"We will be sending him his highlights from the Eels days and letting him know that he has his hands full,” Toomua said. 

"No, I am sure he is pretty excited. As I said, hunt in threes and it increases your odds a bit more.”

To'omua’s answer pointed to an area of the Fijian game that is always a big focus in defensive training and planning by rivals - their offloading skill.

The Wallabies, he said, would work hard to not get isolated in defence, lest they be beaten by Fijian footwork or in the event of having made the one-on-one tackle, watch their opponent toss an impossible offload anyway.

"Obviously they’re very talented and we are lucky enough to have a few Fijians in our team as well, to combat that, (in Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete and Isi Naisarani),” To'omua said.

"But anyone who watches rugby whether it be in Europe or in the Southern Hemisphere know that the Fijians individually have brilliant feet, very strong, great offload. 

"These guys are powerful men but can also step you as well, so they;re a dual or triple threat there. 

"We kind of have to hunt in packs I guess. That’s our best chance I guess at limiting their opportunities. Any time you get them one-on-one you might be struggling a little bit so we have to make sure guys are working together in packs of threes. They can offload despite when they’re in tricky situations.”




Likewise, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said the key to stopping Radradra, and the many other Fijian threats, is for his team to defend as a unit and not as individuals.

“(Radradra) is a fine player obviously, along with many other fine players they have in the team there,” he said.

"You put too much of an eye on one, and you’ll miss the others. Team play is what it is all about. Stay connected, keep the ball when you can and when they have it, stay connected and defend well together and things will work out.”

Koroibete, who go head-to-head in a tasty duel with Tuisova, played alongside Radradra in the Fijian rugby league in the 13-man game’s World Cup in 2013.

After switching codes in 2016, the 18-cap Wallabies winger debuted for Australia in 2017 and has been one of the team’s best this year.

Apart from his parents, Koroibete said allegiances back in his home village in Fiji will still be all-white for this game.

"I am obviously looking forward to it. As I said earlier in the week, Australia gave me an opportunity to pursue my dream and they have given me a lot. It will be a but weird playing against Fiji but I will give everything,” Koroibete said.

"It will be hard for my family back home to (pick) which team to cheer for, but there will be some cheering for me on the weekend.

"My family they cheer for Australia and obviously my friends will cheer for Fiji and after that will cheer for Australia.”

As they did in the 2015 World Cup, Fiji loom as a very dangerous foe for the two fancies tier one pool mates Wales and Australia.

Fiji, who have made the World Cup playoffs twice in 1987 and 2007, tend to get better as the tournament goes on and the Wallabies likely have an advantage in playing Fiji first. Wales play them last.

To'omua said the Wallabies were not going in under-prepared.

“In terms of timing, I don’t think it is (a problem),"We have been playing games, IT was only two weeks ago we were playing Samoa and two weeks before that New Zealand,” he said.

"I don’t think there is a sense from us we are going off scratch or its the first game of the season, despite us being in new jerseys and in Japan and all that kind of stuff. Both teams are pretty well primed for that.”

Australia takes on Fiji on Saturday September 21 at the Sapporo Dome, kicking off at 1:45pm local, 2;45pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Network Ten and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.