Fiji head to Lisbon for the second time in their history on Saturday. When they last played in 2005 the score was a competitive 26-17. This time will be different.
PORTUGAL vs FIJI
Saturday, November 9, 15:00 GMT, Lisbon
New Portuguese coach Frederico Sousa has pulled a surprise by naming an even less experienced team than anticipated, opting to start six uncapped players including two teenagers. Tighthead prop Bruno Madeiros is four days shy of turning 20, and centre Pedro Bettencourt won’t turn 19 for another ten days. His midfield partner Miguel Leal, by contrast, is 31 years old but also uncapped. Athletic lock Rafael Simoes makes his debut, as so wing Duarte Moreira and flyhalf Francisco Almeida.
The back row is the team’s strongest point, with Julien Bardy and Vasco Uva providing high-level experience, while Goncalo Foro and Pedro Leal hope to keep the backs in check with their combined 17 years of international rugby. Goncalo Uva will be tasked with controlling the lineout, and Joao Correia captains from hooker. A completely untried front row covers from the bench, as well as rookie flyhalf Luis Salema.
Fiji meanwhile field a very experienced side composed almost entirely of professionals, with only front rowers Viliame Veikoso and Setefano Somoca entirely local amateurs. Flyhalf Waisea Luveniyali is currently playing in the islands but spent the past season with Newcastle Falcons and has several seasons of professional rugby under his belt. The only uncapped player in the starting lineup is right wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma, known to rugby fans for his performances with the Super Rugby champion Chiefs.
Giant no8 Sisa Koyamaibole is back in the side for the side for the first time since the World Cup after regaining top form with Brive this season, and vice-captain Seremaia Bai partner man-mountain Nemani Nadolo in the centres. Former captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu is among the reserves, as well as uncapped duo Alex Rokobaro and Levani Botia. Livewire Glasgow scrumhalf Niko Matawalu has escaped censure to take his place in the starting lineup.
On paper this is one of Fiji’s strongest lineups in years and a terrifying proposition for the woefully outgunned Lobos. There are ball carrying threats from 1 to 15 and their backs are on average as big as the Portuguese forwards. There will be an element of disjointedness at the start, but with the weather forecast calling for a dry and mostly sunny day, this could easily turn into a rout before the halftime whistle. Fiji run riot in a terrible mismatch and walk away winners by 40 points.
Referee: Juan Sylvestre (UAR)
Assistants: Ian Davies (WRU) & Andrew Davies (WRU)