The Wallabies are looking to put the brakes on Fiji’s Semi Radradra with the former NRL star in their sights in their Rugby World Cup showdown with a quarter-final place on the line.
Known as ‘Semi-Truck’, the towering center is Fiji’s go-to man, with the Pacific Islanders desperate to topple Australia in Saint-Etienne on Sunday (Monday AEST) to keep their tournament hopes alive .
Radradra will have to regroup after dropping a last-ditch pass that could have led to a match-winning try in their World Cup opener against Wales, losing 32-26.
Playing for Parramatta between 2013 and 2017, Radradra had a stunning strike rate with 82 tries in 94 matches.
Wallabies assistant Jason Ryles said stopping Radradra would be key to Australia’s hopes of making it back to back wins after beating Georgia in their opening pool match.
Wallabies look to slow down Fiji’s Semi Radradra in their World Cup showdown
Fiji will desperately try to topple Australia in Saint-Etienne on Sunday (Monday AEST)
Barring a major upset, a victory against Fiji would allow the Wallabies and Wales to secure the two play-off places.
“Semi is one of those guys who curves the line and they like to play off his back and in open space, they look for him,” said Ryles, himself a former NRL star forward.
“He’s a huge influence on their team and he’s one of the guys we’ll definitely have to make sure we do a good job on.”
Wallabies winger Suliasi Vunivalu got the better of Radradra when they last met in a 2017 NRL qualifying final, when the ex-Storm star helped his side to victory.
Radradra was one of the scorers for the Eels in an 18-16 thriller at AAMI Park.
“I’ve played against Semi at club level in the NRL and he’s a big threat, so I’m looking forward to playing him this week,” Vunivalu said.
“We played each other in the final and we (Melbourne) got up in 2017, so that was good.
“There are no jokes (between us), it’s just respect.”
Known as ‘Semi-trailer’, the powerful former NRL player is Fiji’s go-to man
Wallabies props Taniela Tupou and James Slipper both doubtful for showdown
One of seven Wallabies team players of Fijian heritage, Vunivalu was born and raised in Fiji until moving to New Zealand as a teenager and then Australia.
He said he asked fellow Fiji-born Marika Koroibete, who played in Australia’s victory over Fiji in the 2019 World Cup, if she would be a target for the islanders.
“I was actually talking to Marika about their last World Cup and what they were saying, like ‘Were they trying to target them, like Fijian against Fijian?’
“He said they were talking to Samu (Kerevi) about stuff like ‘Belt him, belt him’ in Fijian.
“And I was like, ‘Did Samu know?’ and he said: ‘No, I didn’t want to talk to the Samu about it’ but yes, I think they will be looking forward to the same situation this week.’
Meanwhile, the Wallabies’ preparations for the clash suffered a setback, with senior props Taniela Tupou and James Slipper doubtful for the match due to injury.
Wallabies attack coach Jason Ryles could not confirm whether Tupou or Slipper would play
The two players did not participate in collective training in Saint-Etienne on Wednesday.
Tupou is suffering from a hamstring injury, while Slipper has a problem with his foot.
“Taniela is on the sidelines at the moment,” Ryles confirmed.
“He’s got a little bit of a hamstring issue, but we’re just going to monitor him and see how he’s doing over the next few days.”
Ryles was cautious about Slipper’s chances of playing.
“The slips have been dealt with at this point,” he said. “I think it’s certainly there, but we don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out, whether it’s this week or next week.”