Here it is. The 40th and final match of the pool phase at Rugby World Cup 2023.
Fiji have been one of the standout teams of the tournament, following up a so-near, so-far defeat to Wales with victories over Australia and Georgia to stand one point from quarter-final qualification before kick-off in Toulouse.
Head coach Simon Raiwalui has brought in Top 14 star Vilimoni Botitu as one of six changes to the starting line-up from their last game against Georgia, while second-row Temo Manyanavanua will make his first Rugby World Cup start after three appearances off the bench, and Sireli Maqala earns his first start after just five minutes game time so far.
Patrice Lagisquet’s Portugal, however, will want to sign off from an encouraging tournament with a statement victory, as it is likely to be the final game for a number of those involved.
Tomás Appleton drops to the bench, with José Lima taking his place as captain and inside-centre in one of five changes to the starting XV from their last game against Australia. Manuel Cardoso Pinto starts at full-back for the first time since February 2022 against Romania, and Steevy Cerqueira partners José Madeira in the second row for the second time in France.
FIXTURE: Fiji v Portugal
GROUND: Stadium de Toulouse (33,103)
KICK-OFF: 21:00 local time (GMT+2)
Fiji have won their two previous meetings against Portugal, both of which were in Lisbon. The first, in 2005, ended 26-17, while a young Levani Botia – the hero for the Flying Fijians against Georgia earlier in the tournament – scored the last of their six tries in a 36-13 win after coming on as a replacement in 2013.
As well as Botia, Nemani Nadolo, Napolioni Nalaga, and Seremaia Bai were among those on the scoresheet the last time Fiji played Portugal at Estadio Universitario in November 2013. Francisco Appleton, brother of Os Lobos’ current captain Tomas, was on the bench in that match.
KEY TALKING POINT
What this match means for a national side not involved in the match. Australia are currently second in Pool C, but can do nothing but watch and hope that Portugal spring a shock and deny Fiji the point they need to book the pool’s still open quarter-final spot.
Vilimoni Botitu v Jerónimo Portela. Top 14 star Botitu starts at 10 for only the second time for Fiji – he’s also had one outing in that position for his club side, Castres Olympique, where he normally plays at 12.
Raffaele Storti, with two tries here, is the only Portuguese player to have scored more than one try at a Rugby World Cup, after four players scored one each in 2007. He also leads the team for defenders beaten (20) and line breaks (5) from the fifth-most carries (22) and third-most metres (276) for Portugal.
Luke Pearce (England). If the official’s recent matches are anything to go by, expect plenty of tries here. Pearce was on hand to signal 10 tries in South Africa’s match against Tonga, 11 in New Zealand’s big win over Namibia, and six more when Australia beat Georgia.
FIJI Sireli Maqala; Selesitino Ravutaumada, Waisea Nayacalevu (captain), Josua Tuisova, Vinaya Habosi; Vilimoni Botitu, Frank Lomani; Eroni Mawi, Samuel Matavesi, Luke Tagi; Isoa Nasilasila, Temo Mayanavanua; Meli Derenalagi, Levani Botia, Viliame Mata
Replacements: 16 Tevita Ikanivere, Peni Ravai, Mesake Doge, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Albert Tuisue, Peni Matawalu, Teti Tela, Iosefo Masi
PORTUGAL Manuel Cardoso Pinto; Raffaele Storti, Pedro Bettencourt, José Lima (captain), Rodrigo Marta; Jerónimo Portela, Samuel Marques; Francisco Fernandes, Mike Tadjer, Diogo Hasse Ferreira; José Madeira, Steevy Cerqueira; David Wallis, Nicolas Martins, Rafael Simões
Replacements: David Costa, Duarte Diniz, Anthony Alves, Duarte Torgal, João Granate, João Belo, Tomás Appleton, Vincent Pinto