Australia 64 Fiji 0
"We believe the best defensive side will win this competition": Assistant coach David Furner. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Australian players have set themselves the goal in next weekend's World Cup final against New Zealand of becoming the first Kangaroos team to hold opposition sides tryless in five consecutive matches.
The Kangaroos spoke before Saturday's 64-0 defeat of Fiji about the achievement of the 1982 Australian team, known as the Invincibles, who did not concede a try in four consecutive matches against Great Britain, Leigh, Bradford Northern and Cumbria.
Since a meeting to address concerns about their defence in their World Cup-opening 28-20 win over England, Australia have managed to prevent Fiji, Ireland, the US and the Bati a second time in the semi-final at Wembley Stadium, from crossing their try line.
"We have worked really hard on our defence with David Furner over the past five weeks and it has been paying off": Paul Gallen. Photo: Getty Images
Assistant coach David Furner, who is responsible for the Australian team's defence, unearthed the statistic and coach Tim Sheens spoke to the players on the eve of the match against Fiji.
''We just talked about the 1982 Australian team, which was led by Max Krilich, and they were the first Kangaroos team to be called the Invincibles because they never lost a game,'' Furner said.
''It was a good focal point for the boys, I mentioned it to them yesterday and maybe some of the shape thrown at us wasn't right up there with the best teams but certainly the guys have worked hard defensively and they made it a goal. That is 30 years and regardless of who you play you have got to defend and there were a lot of NRL players in that Fiji side.''
Going into the semi-finals, the Kiwis boasted the best attacking record in the World Cup after scoring 186 points in their previous four games compared to 174 points by Australia but the Kangaroos had conceded just 22 points compared to New Zealand's 38 points.
''It was a credit to the players that they bought into it, Tim spoke about it and we believe the best defensive side will win this competition,'' Furner said.
After beating Fiji 34-2 earlier in the tournament, the Kangaroos piled on 11 tries in a ruthless performance in the semi as the Bati found Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne too hard to handle. However, Sheens and senior Kangaroos players said the most pleasing thing was the team's defence.
''England got off to a pretty good start against us and led 10-0 and that is not where we want to be,'' vice-captain Paul Gallen said. ''It wasn't a standard we wanted to set so we did speak about that and we have worked really hard on our defence with David Furner over the past five weeks and it has been paying off.''
The match was Fiji captain Petero Civoniceva's last but there remains a possibility he will play again in the Pacific Test against Samoa on the NRL's stand alone representative weekend in April to try and help the Bati qualify for next year's Four Nations.
Civoniceva said the entire squad will travel to Fiji this week for a street parade in honour of their success and an official reception with President Epeli Nailatikau and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. ''It is exciting what we are going to be doing over the next few years in terms of developing our young guys over there and exposing them to the NRL and Super League competitions,'' Civoniceva said.