Australian side keen to move through to the Rugby League competition final.
Australia will need to come out on top of a monumental front-row battle against Fiji that offers up an intriguing sideline to their Rugby League World Cup semi-final on Saturday.
That is the opinion of Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens who needs to find the the tactics to tame Fiji’s star prop Petero Civoniceva, who holds the record for the most Kangaroo caps as a forward, at 45.
The durable 37-year-old, who started his career in 1998 and became only the 17th player to notch up more than 300 games in the NRL, has reinvented himself as captain of Fiji, the country of his birth which he left with his parents for Australia aged just six months.
“He’s one of the all-time great props,” Sheens said simply of former Australia international Civoniceva. “All credit to him, he’s had a fantastic career.
“To survive as long as he had, with 40-plus Tests, is not easy, I can tell you. Anyone who plays the game for 10 years or more at NRL level has had a great career, let alone playing up front.”
Fiji made it to the last four despite losing to Australia (34-2) and England (34-12) in the pool stage, having opened with a 32-14 victory over Ireland and defeated Samoa 22-4 in the quarter-finals.
But Sheens said the Fijians, and notably their front-row, showed enough steel in that pool loss at St Helens in terrible conditions to demonstrate that they would be real contenders.
“Petero certainly took it to us in the game in St Helens, and I’m sure he’ll be pretty fired up to lead the charge on Saturday,” Sheens said.
“We’ve got a good front-row rotation, I’m pretty happy with it, they’ve been laying a good platform. It’s imperative again up against Petero and (Ashton) Sims that we dominate that area of the game.”
The Kangaroos, seeking a 10th World Cup title after being trumped by New Zealand to the trophy at the last edition in 2008, are not exactly light up front, with the heavyweight likes of Andrew Fifita, Matthew Scott and James Tamou.
“They’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, so we’re expecting a really tough game,” Sheens said of Fiji.
“Dry conditions suit them, and I like to think it suits us as well, it should be an interesting game out wide.
“It’s very important that we play well. We want to win the game and do the right thing as far as preparing for the week after in having a good, strong game — but we’re not counting on winning just yet.”