Wales hail 'individual brilliance' of Rees-Zammit

·3-min read
Wales' Louis Rees-Zammit (R) (AFP/Geoff Caddick)

Wales coach Wayne Pivac hailed the "individual brilliance" of star winger Louis Rees-Zammit, who scored a momentum-changing try in the scrappy 38-23 victory over Fiji on Sunday.

The 20-year-old crossed for a memorable chip-and-chase try with six minutes to play and Wales leading 24-23.

Up until then, it had been nip and tuck between the two sides, with Fiji down to 14 men for 65 minutes of the hard-fought game.

Receiving the ball on his left wing, Rees-Zammit kicked ahead with his left foot and motored past opposite number Josua Tuivosa.

As the majority of the 63,000 fans at Cardiff's Prinicipality Stadium rose to their feet, Rees-Zammit then put on the after-burners to edge past Fiji full-back Setareki Tuicuvu to dot down for his sixth try in his 11th Test match.

"That's what he can do. You can't coach that. It is express pace," said Pivac.

"I was pleased for him. He was marked fairly heavily. I was really pleased that he showed individual brilliance and raw pace that he has. It's great to have him in your side."

Wales captain Ellis Jenkins said it had been nice to see the winger stretch his legs after a first 40 minutes when he had sustained a few heavy tackles.

"He's fast, isn't he?!" said Jenkins, who was part of a Welsh backrow that struggled against a very physical Fijian counter-rucking gameplan.

"I passed three times to him in the first-half and he got smoked. His try was a big momentum shift for us, in an important part of the game."

Up until Rees-Zammit's game-changer, Wales had struggled against a Fiji side that saw Eroni Sau red carded after 25 minutes for a swinging arm in the tackle.

Flanker Albert Tuisue and replacement prop Eroni Mawi also received yellow cards.

"There's a way of playing the game," said stand-in Fiji coach Gareth Baber, with Vern Cotter unable to travel to the northern hemisphere because of Covid-19 restrictions.

"We play it physical, but you've got to have control.

"One of our players obviously had a bit of a rush when he made the first tackle, then went in for the second one and that cost us.

- 'Cards hurt teams' -

Baber, who coached Fiji to Olympic rugby sevens gold at the Tokyo Games, added: "Cards hurt teams, and particularly playing against a team like Wales, you get three in a game and you're probably looking at a loss."

Pivac admitted that his comparatively lightweight backrow had at times struggled.

"Fiji were very physical, and at times we were knocked off our stride. It's as simple as that," the Kiwi said.

"Fiji are so big and strong over the ball, 1-15, guys who can get over the ball and are strong over it.

"Fiji threw everything as us. They went down a man and that galvanised them."

Pivac said Baber had told the Fiji team at half-time that "they had everything to gain and nothing to lose".

"Quite often, when you go out with sort of cavalier attitude, things can come off for you."

As it was, Wales led 14-13 at half-time, but thanks to Fiji's ill-discipline crossed for four second-half tries to put some gloss on the scoreline.

While the victory at least washes away the taste of two defeats by New Zealand and South Africa, Wales will now face another tough opponent in Australia next week.

"We will start looking at them from tomorrow," Pivac said, with the Wallabies having lost to Scotland and England so far on their autumn campaign.

"They are a very good side that are well-coached.

"I know Dave Rennie well. They will be hurting after their last couple of games, and it should be a very physical game."

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