Sunday 18 February 2018 / 09:42 PM

Flashback Friday: Wallabies v Fiji 1961

The Wallabies’ first match of the Rugby World Cup is less than a week away, taking on Fiji at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Thursday morning (AEST).

The nations have clashed 19 times previously, with Australia winning 16, Fiji two and one game finishing in a draw. They first met in the 1950s, with Fiji touring Australia twice and sharing both two-test series 1-all.

Flashback Friday is travelling all the way back to 1961, when Fiji made their third tour of Australia. The Wallabies won the first Test in Brisbane 24-6, before wrapping up the series 20-14 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The physical, unorthodox tourists took a shock lead, before the Wallabies came home with a wet sail in a four-tries-to-three result. Winger Mike Cleary – who won a Commonwealth Games gold in the 100 metres the following year, before becoming a rugby league international during a decorated career with South Sydney – scored two tries, while centre Beres Ellwood and flanker Terry Reid also crossed.

Two more future dual internationals featured in the side: centre Jimmy Lisle, who won a premiership with the Rabbitohs alongside Cleary, and No.8 Dick Thornett, who became a Parramatta legend.

The sides drew the third encounter 3-all in a historic clash at Melbourne’s Olympic Park. Australia played on Fijian soil for the first time in 1972, sneaking home 21-19 – the first of 12 straight wins the Wallabies have enjoyed over the Islanders.

They have met just once previously in World Cups, with Australia prevailing 55-12 in Montpellier, France, at the 2007 tournament. Their most recent clash was in 2010, when the Wallabies racked up a 49-3 scoreline in Canberra.

[YouTube – British Pathé]

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