CARDIFF, September 24- Fiji were left to reflect on a punishingly brief turnaround after their 28-13 World Cup defeat by Australia on Wednesday.
After going down 35-11 to tournament hosts England in the physical, opening match of the World Cup at Twickenham, the Fijians were expected to do it all again just five days later against a Wallaby team making their Pool A debut.
And it proved too much although the Pacific islanders stuck to their task with aplomb, denying the Australians a bonus point in what promises to be the tightest of pools.
“The effort was amazing to back up,” said Fiji coach John McKee.
“It’s very hard to play England and then Australia in five days in such high-intensity Test matches.
“Credit to our players the way they played tonight.”
McKee would not, however, be drawn on the fairness of the tournament schedule.
“That’s the competition,” the much-travelled Kiwi said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s fair or unfair, that’s the way the competition was set up.”
McKee added: “To go and play a lot of good rugby in two games and to come away with no points is disappointing.
“I’m sure for the playing group, it’ll give them some extra resolve to make their mark,” he said, with Fiji’s next game against Wales — the team they knocked out of the 2007 World Cup — in Cardiff on October 1.
Australia’s victory, based on two first-half David Pocock tries from driving mauls, was the closest margin between the two sides since a 16-3 Australia win over Fiji in 1984 in Suva.
“It was another tough night for our team,” McKee said.
“We came here with high ambitions and thought if we could be at our very best, we could get a win. Credit to the Wallabies. They played very well.
“For periods of the first half, we had control of the game, but some errors crept in and a team like Australia are very good at capitalising on that and taking their opportunities.”
McKee said that with eight days off until the Wales game, also at the Millennium Stadium, the Fiji squad would “regroup after our efforts, refuel the tanks a little bit and clear the minds and so forth and really start our preparation for the Wales game next week”.
“The Rugby World Cup is not over yet,” he warned. “We’ve still got two games to go.
“But we want to be competitive at the top level. We have to keep chipping away and working away at it.
“We want to get to the situation that when we come up north to play England or Wales, that we are on an equal footing and we don’t know who is going to win the game, not so it is like tier one against tier two.
“That’s our aim. These things don’t happen overnight, but we are heading in the right direction.”