By Greg Stutchbury
SAPPORO, Japan (Reuters) – Samu Kerevi’s family will celebrate his first and possibly only match against Fiji with a massive barbecue and celebration on Saturday, as the Australian vice-captain runs onto the field in their Pool D World Cup opener at the Sapporo Dome.
The 25-year-old, whose elder brother Josh trained with the Fijians this week, is leaving Australia after the World Cup to play for Suntory in Japan and is not eligible for the Wallabies under the ‘Giteau law’.
He has played just 29 tests for the Wallabies, with players needing a minimum of 60 caps to be selected under the exemption, which they introduced in 2015 to pick overseas-based players like Matt Giteau for the Rugby World Cup that year.
Kerevi, who moved to Australia as a teenager, is one of three Fijian-born players in the Wallabies starting side to face the Pacific islanders — alongside number eight Isi Naisarani and winger Marika Koroibete.
There were no signs of divided loyalties from the players, although family members back in Fiji were supporting both teams, he said.
“Everyone back home is pretty excited,” Kerevi said at the Sapporo Dome on Friday in reference to his home village of Viseisei, which is north of Nadi. “I know that my family have a whole day programmed waiting for the game.
“There’s going to be a barbecue for breakfast. The whole family is coming to watch the game and backing not only Fiji but the Fijians in our team too.
“There will be a lot of emotion in the buildup to the game but once it’s started, it’s all about getting the win.”
Getting the win is imperative for the Wallabies, to advance out of a tough Pool D, that includes Six Nations champions Wales, Uruguay and Georgia.
Fiji have risen into the top 10 in the world rankings and with a side full of European-based professionals have been tipped to be the most likely tier-two team to create some issues for the top-level sides.
The challenge was not lost on Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, who felt the match would be a perfect introduction to the tournament given they face Wales in Tokyo on Sept. 29.
“It’s a really good way to start our tournament, with the physical nature that Fiji have and the ability they have across the park,” Hooper said.
“We have been really focussing on this game and have been for a long time.”
The Wallabies made an unexpected run to the last World Cup final but have had an inconsistent past four years, including winning just four matches in 2018.
Hooper, however, said all that really mattered was how his side turned up at 1.45 p.m. (0445 GMT) on Saturday.
“We haven’t had time to draw on comparisons from four years ago,” he said. “We are ready to go.”
(Editing by Jon Boyle)