Wales should breathe easier with the news that Nemani Nadolo and Nikola Matawalu will both be missing for Thursday's crucial World Cup clash in Cardiff


Wales and Pacific Island teams have a long, painful history at World Cups but Warren Gatland’s men might have dodged a bullet ahead of their clash with Fiji on Thursday.

John McKee’s side have not yet picked up a point in the World Cup, but pushed both England and Australia harder than the final scores in those games suggested.

For much of the loss to England they were very much the equal of their hosts, while their defeat to Australia on the back of a short turnaround was in large part down to an inability to cope with the Wallabies’ rolling maul.

Fresh from ten days off, and against a tired and depleted Welsh team, this looked like Fiji’s best chance of an upset before what should be a simple five points against Uruguay.

Ben Volavola

Playmaker: Ben Volavola is an improving pivot in the Fiji team

Except Fiji will be missing two of their key players in Cardiff, as well as another regular starter.

Their biggest star, literally, is Nemani Nadolo, but he will be out because of a clumsy clearout of David Pocock in the Australia clash.

Regardless of your views on whether he deserved a ban or not, there’s no question that his absence will be keenly felt.

Deprived of both Nadolo and injured Stade Français winger Waisea Nayacalevu, Fiji have turned to Harlequins’ Aseli Tikoirotuma and Montpellier’s Timoci Nagusa.

Both are dangerous players, with Nagusa a prolific try-scorer, but neither provides Nadolo’s size out wide, as well as his goal-kicking ability which is important in a team without a consistent kicker.

And yet Fiji won the Pacific Nations Cup without their big man out wide, however one man who did feature in that competition, particularly in the final, was Nikola Matawalu.

Nikola Matawalu

Big miss: Nikola Matawalu possesses the game-breaking ability to trouble Wales

He also misses the Wales game, and his loss is a huge blow. The Bath-bound scrum-half is well-known to Welsh fans through his efforts in the Pro12 with the Glasgow Warriors over the last few seasons.

Capable of winning and losing matches for his team, his gamebreaking ability will be sorely missed.

Fiji still have plenty of talent in their backline, as well as a dynamic pack of forwards, but in their last chance to cause an upset, these two key injuries are likely to be just as prejudicial to them as Wales’ many absentees.

Fiji: Metuisela Talebula, Timoci Nagusa, Vereniki Goneva, Lepani Botia, Aseli Tikoirotuma, Ben Volavola, Nemia Kenatale, Campese Maafu, Sunia Koto, Manasa Saulo, Tevita Cavubati, Leone Nakarawa, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Akapusi Qera (c), Netani Talei.
Replacements: Viliame Veikoso, Peni Ravia, Leeroy Atalifo, Nemia Soqeta, Malakai Ravulo, Henry Seniloli, Joshua Matavesi, Kini Murimurivalu.