RWC 2015: Wales turn the screw on England with Fiji win
'Knackered' Wales hold on against Fiji to top Pool A and leave England staring down the barrel ahead of Australia clash
Wales 23 Fiji 13
Wales faced down Fiji in Cardiff on Thursday evening and left England teetering on the edge of the abyss. The Welsh win means that England have to beat Australia tomorrow evening at Twickenham. Lose and England crash out of the World Cup, the first time such a humiliation has befallen the host country.
But there is a glimmer of hope for Stuart Lancaster's side. Wales were given the sternest of tests by Fiji, and their 23-13 victory was earned without the additional comfort of a bonus point. So while the Welsh now have three wins from three, they could still yet fail to progress from Pool A despite sitting pretty at the top this morning with 13 points.
Everything depends on the outcome of Saturday's titanic showdown in leafy south London. Should England win then suddenly it's Wales and Australia in trouble. They face each other on Saturday week in Cardiff while England host Uruguay in Manchester, a match they are certain to win with a bonus point to boot.
If England beat Australia then both those teams, plus Wales, will be in contention to make it to the quarter-finals. There are several permutations involving bonus points but for now the simplest way to put it is simply that if England win their last two matches they should still qualify for the knockout phase.
Wales at least survived their Fijian fright without losing any more players to serious injury, although flanker Dan Lydiate took a nasty blow to his eye socket. That clean bill of health will please coach Warren Gatland but the way his pack was shoved back in the scrum will be of grave concern, particularly with Australia having made much progress in the set-piece of late.
The Wallabies will also bring with them a world-class kicker when they face Wales, something that Fiji forgot as fly-half Ben Volavola misseed a couple of relatively easy kicks that would have ramped up the pressure on Warren Gatland's team. In fairness to the hosts, however, they showed admirable strength and resilience to hold off an aggressive Fijian side, bearing in mind that five days earlier they'd played the game of their lives in winning at Twickenham for only the third time in 25 years.
"We are absolutely delighted with the win," declared Wales' New Zealand-born coach Gatland after the game. "Given the short turnaround we had we were always going to have to dig really deep for the win and I thought we did that well today."
Captain Sam Warburton, who admitted he was "knackered" for much of the game, said: "It was a really quick game and very tough for us but we've got three wins out of three. If somebody had told us that at the start of the campaign we'd bite your hand off."
Wales can now at least rest their weary bodies for more than a week before their decisive encounter with Australia, a side that for time being is every Welshman's favourite. "They can do us a big favour, if they win it means we make the quarter-finals," replied Gatland when asked who he'd be supporting on Saturday night. "It’s hard not to want them to win being entirely selfish about our own progress. But it’s a bit hard for a Kiwi to be jumping up and cheering for the Aussies, so I think I will be quite neutral this weekend."