CARDIFF, October 2- Fiji head into their final World Cup Pool A game winless and left ruing a punishing schedule that saw them have to play three of the world’s top six teams in 13 days.
The Pacific islanders went down 23-13 to Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Thursday in a battling display that showcased their dynamic counter-attacking and burgeoning set-piece promise.
After defeats by Australia (28-13) and England (35-11), coach John McKee said the results were a credit to his players given the tough draw. The Fijians notably denied the Wallabies and the Welsh winning bonus points.
“To play England, Australia and Wales in 13 days is a very, very tough task for any team in world rugby,” said McKee.
“It’s an absolute credit to this squad and all the players we’ve got, the support team and coaching staff how we’ve stood up and been so competitive.”
There was even a word of comfort from Wales captain Sam Warburton, whose own side suffered from fatigue after their five-day turnaround from the 28-25 victory over England.
“I do really feel for other tier two nations who have to go through those turnarounds, it was extremely tough, especially at this level,” Warburton said.
McKee added: “To go so close, although frustrating, I cannot fault our team for the work and effort.
“It’s pretty frustrating for me with no points on the table. We knew when we were coming here what a difficult pool we were coming into, but we had high expectations.
“We have a talented group of players and we work really, really hard to get where we are.”
McKee was as phlegmatic as ever when quizzed about the punishing draw handed to Fiji.
“We can’t change the schedule. We knew what it was and that’s what it is,” the Kiwi said.
Wales scored tries through Gareth Davies and Scott Baldwin, with a faultless Dan Biggar kicking 13 points. Vereniki Goneva crossed for Fiji’s sole try, with Ben Volavola kicking a conversion and two penalties in a misfiring display.
“At this level you really need to nail your kicks and we probably left a few out on the park there today,” McKee said.
“You really need that pressure on the scoreboard to stop the opposition getting more than two scores in front and unfortunately today we missed a couple of shots.”
Fiji wrap up their World Cup campaign against Uruguay, wlso without a win, at Milton Keynes on Tuesday.