The Wallabies expect a familiar face to unlock Fiji’s potent backline when the Rugby World Cup kicks off on Friday night.
Unwanted Waratahs playmaker Ben Volavola has been given the keys to world rugby’s most electrifying backline, having been named to start at No.10 for Fiji in the World Cup opener against England on Friday (Saturday morning AEST).
The Australian players admit they will have an extra close eye on the Twickenham showdown because, although they also open their campaign against Pool A rivals Fiji next Wednesday, they’re excited to see how Sydney-born Volavola goes in the hot seat.
Quade Cooper was playing for the Reds during Volavola’s Super Rugby debut for the Tahs in 2013.
Cooper expects the 24-year-old to bring out the best in Fiji’s backline, which boasts the exciting talents of monster winger Nemani Nadolo and veteran centre Niki Goneva.
And the key is having a bit of structure – something Volavola had drilled into him during his stint with the Waratahs.
“The Fijian side of the past, they’ve always been fantastic – they’ve got some amazing skill right across the board,” Cooper said.
“(But) getting structure to the Fijian side is only going to help them be a better team.
“I’m sure he’s going to be a wonderful addition.
“They’re going to be very tough competition throughout the tournament.”
The danger Australia faces in their opener in Cardiff, Cooper warned, is getting drawn into a contest that suits the style of play Fiji traditionally employs.
If you open the game up and set it up as a battle between two dynamic backlines, it will bring Fiji right into the contest, he argues.
“When you’re playing against Fijian sides you can kind of get into a habit of playing Harlem Globetrotters against them – and you’re never going to come off too well (doing that),” Cooper said.
Volavola may have a point to prove to Michael Cheika’s side after being overlooked for much of 2015 by Cheika in his role as Waratahs coach.
Utility back Rob Horne wished the versatile Volavola well and said there were several reasons why it didn’t work – all of which ultimately came down to circumstance.
“It’s great to see him go well because he is a very humble guy and we’ve all known at the Waratahs his skill level and his ability,” Horne said.
But can he help cause a boilover in the tournament opener, by upsetting England?
“Anything can happen in the World Cup – that’s why it’s such a special tournament,” Cooper said smiling.