SAPPORO, Japan, Sep 19 – Wallaby wing Marika Koroibete knows there will be divided loyalties among his family and friends when he plays for Australia against his native Fiji in the teams’ World Cup opener in Sapporo on Saturday.
Koroibete played alongside Fiji flyer Semi Radradra in the Pacific island nation’s team at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
But after changing codes three years ago, Koroibete made his Australia debut in 2017 and has since won 24 caps for the Wallabies.
“I am obviously looking forward to it,” Koroibete told reporters at Australia’s hotel in Sapporo on Thursday after coach Michael Cheika named his team to play Fiji.
“Australia gave me an opportunity to pursue my dream and they have given me a lot. It will be a bit weird playing against Fiji but I will give everything,” he added.
“It will be hard for my family back home to (pick) which team to cheer for, but there will be some cheering for me on the weekend.
“My family they cheer for Australia and obviously my friends will cheer for Fiji and after that will cheer for Australia.”
– ‘Hunt in packs’ –
Despite being mainly deployed as a centre in French club rugby, Fiji coach John McKee has picked Radradra on the wing — where he won a cap as an Australia rugby league international in 2016.
Australia’s Reece Hodge appears set to have the tricky task of marking Radradra, who played rugby league for Sydney’s Parramatta Eels.
“We will be sending him his highlights from the Eels days and letting him know that he has his hands full,” said Australia replacement back Matt To’omua.
Fiji have long been renowned for a running rugby game and their team also includes three members of the side that won Sevens gold at the Rio Olympics in Josua Tuisova, Leone Nakarawa and Viliame Mata.
“Obviously they’re very talented and we are lucky enough to have a few Fijians in our team as well, to combat that (Samu Kerevi, Koroibete and Isi Naisarani),” To’omua said.
“But anyone who watches rugby, whether it be in Europe or in the Southern Hemisphere, knows that the Fijians individually have brilliant feet, very strong, great offloads.
“These guys are powerful men but can also step you as well, so they’re a dual or triple threat there.
“We kind of have to hunt in packs I guess… Any time you get them one-on-one you might be struggling a little bit, so we have to make sure guys are working together in packs of threes.”
Meanwhile, Cheika urged his side not to get caught up with the hype surrounding Radradra.
“You put too much of an eye on one, and you’ll miss the others,” he said.
“Team play is what it is all about. Stay connected, keep the ball when you can and when they have it, stay connected and defend well together and things will work out,” Cheika added.