[Source: Rugby Pass]
In 17 years of professional rugby, 43-Test All Black Liam Messam played with some of the world’s finest players. None compared to Fiji’s Josua Tuisova.
A standout in the Flying Fijians’ historic win over the Wallabies, Tuisova has earned huge praise for his damaging play on both sides of the ball.
The 29-year-old was an undeniable influence on the outcome of the match; a joint leader for carries (11) and turnovers won (3) while running for the second-most metres in the match and scoring his team’s only try.
It’s the kind of performance Messam was well aware his former Toulon teammate was capable of.
“Bro, he’s a freak,” Messam told RWC on Island.
“I’ve played with some world-class players, some freakish players, guys like (Sitiveni) Sivivatu, Mils Muliaina, Dan Carter. But hands down, Josua Tuisova’s the freakiest player I’ve ever played with.
“He’s your typical Fijian too, sometimes he doesn’t show up, like ‘leave me alone, I don’t want to play today’ and then some days he’s the best player in the world and we’re seeing that.
“His calves are the same size as Nili (Latu’s) head. He’s a big man and really impressive to see.”
Tuisova played across the backline during Fiji’s Pacific Nations Cup campaign, helping the team to a perfect record to win the competition.
The team built on that form and while a lost to France kicked off their Rugby World Cup warm-up games on a disappointing note, they bounced back with a first-ever win over England at Twickenham.
Tuisova didn’t play in that game after sustaining a knock in training, he then started the World Cup coming off the bench against Wales. Once on the field, the 113kg bruiser sparked a resurgence and brought Fiji back to the brink of victory, only to fall short in the dying moments.
He was subsequently promoted to start at second five-eighth for the Wallabies Test.
Traditionally, Fiji wins have come through dazzling, expansive play with long-range attacking plays sparked from all over the field. But against Australia, the team built pressure through their set piece and work at the breakdown before converting the Wallabies’ ill discipline into points through Simione Kuruvoli’s penalty kicks.
“It’s really impressive,” Messam said of the Fijian gameplan. “Maybe Fiji’s not known for kicking goals but it’s really going to pay off at the end of the tournament.
“The bonus is they’ve got the crowd on their side now, they’re the second favourite team in the competition. There’s France and then there’s going to be Fiji.
“You see all the people dressed up in Bula shirts and chanting, that goes a long way when you’re playing in a tournament.”
As is the case every World Cup, fans can’t help but love the Fijian team. Former Manu Samoa star Tuilagi Alesana Tuilagi sees the team having what it takes to go all the way.
“The quality of the players that Fiji have, and the team, it shows last week,” he said of the win over Australia. “They can beat any team in the world. There’s a passion for the game and they believe that with the way they played, they can beat any team in this competition.”