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-Former NRL star Semi Radradra will start on the wing for the Flying Fijians for the first time in their Rugby World Cup opener against Australia on Saturday.
As the Wallabies named virtually the same team that upset the All Blacks in Perth last month, with the exception of David Pocock's return to the back row at No.6, Fiji coach John McKee moved his electrifying five-Test former Parramatta Eels winger and dual international from the centres to the wing.
Radradra scores a try for Fiji against France at the Stade de France in Paris.Credit:AP
Since upsetting France at Stade de France last November, McKee is hunting even bigger scalps for Fiji, moving his top pace outside in the hope they can kick off their World Cup with a major upset at the Sapporo Dome.
McKee has paired Radradra with Olympic gold medallist Josua Tuisova on the right wing. Tuisova scored a try in Fiji's 2016 Olympic sevens triumph in Rio de Janeiro and, along with Radradra, will prove a real handful for Australia's back three combination of Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge and Kurtley Beale.
Tuisova is one of three players in McKee's starting line-up who won gold in Rio. Fiji's "offloading wizard" Leone Nakarawa will start in the second row and Viliame Mata takes his place at No.8.
Two Australian-born players will also start. Campese Ma'afu, the older brother of former Wallaby Salesi Ma'afu, will start at loosehead prop. He was named after Australian legend David Campese after the winger's performance in the Wallabies' victorious Grand Slam tour of Europe in 1984.
Former Waratahs playmaker Ben Volavola starts at five-eighth with newly-signed Rebels halfback Frank Lomani. Volavola grew up in Sydney and went to Endeavour Sports High School and Newington College.
Lepani Botia and Waisea Nayacalevu were named at 12 and 13 respectively, while Kini Murimurivalu starts at fullback.
Fiji do not arrive in Sapporo until late on Thursday. They started in Akita, a seaside city on Japan's western coast, before moving to Abashiri, on the northernmost tip of Japan.
As expected, Michael Cheika announced the return of the "Pooper" combination in Australia's back row on Thursday, with Pocock starting at No.6, captain Michael Hooper at No.7 and Isi Naisarani at No.8.
Damaging Queensland No.6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto has made way for Pocock's return. In recent years Pocock has started at No.8 when the Wallabies have used both he and Hooper in the starting XV, but Naisarani's form has been too strong to bench the Fijian-born Rebel.
Pocock has played on the blindside a number of times in the gold jersey and Cheika said the change was about retaining possession wherever possible.
"I suppose we want to have as much of the ball as we can. If they can get the ball off the ground, yep, that’s a bonus," he said.
"Rest assured these players aren’t just picked for their play on the ground. They’ve got a lot of other facets to their game where they can contribute both in attack and defence. From an experience point of view to. We want to get ourselves as much ball as we can but also for those other reasons."
With the additional exception of second-rower Rory Arnold, who missed the second Bledisloe Cup Test due to a hand injury, the starting line-up is otherwise unchanged from Australia's Bledisloe Cup Jekyll and Hyde series, which saw the Wallabies pull off a 47-26 win before falling 36-0 on the return in Auckland.
James O'Connor caps his remarkable comeback from the Test wilderness with his first World Cup start since 2011, named at outside centre alongside vice-captain Samu Kerevi.
Christian Leali'ifano also continues his climb back up to the top of international rugby named at No.10, with Nic White at halfback.
"It has been a strong competition between Nic and Christian and also in this instance Will and Matt Toomua as well," Cheika explained.
"I think in the Rugby Championship they showed enough to us about their composure, ability to adapt on the run, which I think will be big in this game, and their ability to create play in both attack and defence and they deserve the opportunity to play game one.
"It’s tight competition. I’m sure they are going to go well."
Cheika refuted speculation selectors had picked their squads for Fiji and Wales (in their second game of the tournament) at the same time.
"No, one match at a time. We’re only thinking about one game. We’ve said it from day one that in these tournaments, one match at a time," he said. "This selection is for this game and after this game we’ll work out what’s happening next."
The match starts at 2.45pm AEST at the Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan on Saturday September 21.
Fiji: Kini Murimurivalu, Josua Tuisova, Waisea Nayacalevu, Levani Botia, Semi Radradra, Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani, Viliame Mata, Peceli Yato, Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c), Leone Nakarawa, Tevita Cavubati, Peni Ravai, Sam Matavesi, Campese Ma'afu. Reserves: Veremalua Vugakoto, Eroni Mawi, Manasa Saulo, Tevita Ratuva, Mosese Voka, Nikola Matawalu, Alivereti Veitokani, Vereniki Goneva.
Australia: Scott Sio, Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold, David Pocock, Michael Hooper (c), Isi Naisarani, Nic White, Christian Lealiifano, Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi, James O’Connor, Reece Hodge, Kurtley Beale. Reserves: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Will Genia, Matt To’omua, Dane Haylett-Petty.
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