England v Fiji match preview: Hosts to get the job done against tricky opposition
Finally the wait is over as the much anticipated Rugby World Cup kicks off with England versus Fiji. The 2003 Champions are expected to perform and an opening win is vital to set their campaign off on the right foot.
Pool A, or ‘The Group of Death’ as it has been aptly dubbed has very few, if any straightforward games, and this one is no exception.
Stuart Lancaster is under no illusions about the pressure that is heaped on his side as hosts, but they will look to feed off that energy and rely on home support as their 16th man.
A full house is expected at Twickenham for the curtain-raiser, and the same side that beat Ireland convincingly in the final warm-up match has been charged with getting points on the board in this clash.
That XV proved that they can play exciting rugby and they were on the front foot against Ireland from the word go.
England enjoyed a lot of attacking play down the left wing through Jonny May and the Gloucester back should cause more problems here along with Anthony Watson down the right.
The home side rightly had two tries disallowed in that encounter through two avoidable errors, and it is these that Lancaster will hope can be kept to a minimum, both offensively and defensively.
In a Pool that is expected to end up as tight as this one, it could well all come down to points to separate the sides, so England will be looking for a big win here.
Fiji have been in excellent form this season and won the Pacific Nations Cup after first drawing with tournament favourites Samoa in their second match, before meeting and beating them in the final 39-29.
Aside from that 30-30 draw and a narrow 27-26 test match defeat to New Zealand Maori in July, Fiji have won all four of their remaining fixtures this season.
The Flying Fijians lived up to their name in their final warm-up match at the Twickenham Stoop, when they convincingly beat Canada 47-18.
Their starting lineup boasts two Aviva Premiership stars in the shape of try scorer extraordinaire Verinicki Goneva of Leicester City and Nikola Matawalu of Bath.
On the bench is London Irish wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma along with Worcester’s new recruit, lock Tevita Cavubati.
Several of their forward line play across Europe and that added experience of Northern Hemisphere rugby could help them to compete in this tough Pool.
Big things are expected of Verinik Goneva and the big Tiger’s centre-cum-wing as the strength, pace and power to cause some serious damage in this group, starting with England.
Can this young and exciting England squad live up to expectations and carry the weight of a nation on their shoulders? A lot of questions will be answered by 22.00 tomorrow, but there is a chance that a few more may be raised. George Ford needs to have a good game and not put a foot wrong, with Owen Farrell breathing down his neck for the number 10 shirt. If Jonny May can finally begin to show some consistency in a white shirt, and if Jonathan Joseph can reproduce his Six Nations form, England should win this at a canter. More realistically however, they will have to grind out the result as they find their feet in the tournament. Fiji are capable of causing an upset on an England off day, but they will produce just enough to get the job done.
England by 10.
England: Mike Brown (Harlequins); Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby); George Ford (Bath Rugby); Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers); Joe Marler (Harlequins), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Geoff Parling (Exeter Chiefs), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Chris Robshaw (capt, Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby).
Replacements: Rob Webber (Bath Rugby), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby).
Fiji: Metuisela Talebula; Waisea Nayacalevu, Vereniki Goneva, Gabiriele Lovobalavu, Nemani Nadolo; Ben Volavola, Nikola Matawalu; Campese Ma’afu, Sunia Koto, Manasa Saulo; Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Leone Nakarawa; Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Akapusi Qera, Sakiusa Masi Matadigo.
Replacements: Tuapati Talemaitoga, Peni Ravai, Isei Colati, Tevita Cavubati, Peceli Yato, Nemia Kenatale, Joshua Matavesi, Asaeli Tikoirotuma.