England v Fiji - Teams and Prediction
PREVIEW: It’s pretty safe to say that Sunday’s World Cup quarterfinal against England will be the biggest game of the Fijian players’ careers so far and that is why they want to grab the opportunity with both hands.
It’s the first time Fiji has qualified for the last eight since the 2007 edition, which was also hosted in France.
However, the big question on everybody’s lips is whether they will have enough in the tank to make history and qualify for their first-ever semifinal.
“It [a RWC quarterfinal] means everything to us,” said Fiji captain Waisea Nayacalevu.
“I know it has been 16 years since we have been in the quarterfinals and I told the boys the chance is in front of us and this moment will never come back so we will grab it with both hands, take responsibility and do the best we can.”
The preview continues below…
Fiji will also want to make a statement for the Pacific Island Nations.
“We want to make history,” said Nayacalevu.
“We have a lot of support from neighbouring countries so we’re representing all the South Pacific.”
It is not just the Pacific nations Samoa and Tonga cheering on Fiji, but all Tier II nations, said head coach Simon Raiwalui, who has become something of a global spokesman for those without a place at rugby’s top table.
“I’m proud to be Fijian but I’m also proud of the so-called developing nations, really pushing for the global game, how we improve it, create opportunities, how we break that barrier down,” he said.
“This World Cup has been a fantastic example of other teams coming in and playing fantastic rugby and putting on a spectacle for the world.”
The Fijian coach wants his players to put in a big performance for the people back home, who are finding all sorts of ways to view World Cup matches.
“We understand how hard outside the cities it is to get to watch the matches,” Raiwalui explained.
“We’ve seen videos of people out in the boat or up on the hills just finding sources where they can get electricity, where they can get wifi just to watch the game.
“We understand how much it means to them, we appreciate every supporter that we have and we just want to do the country proud.
“We have a nation of 900,000 people that lives and breathes rugby.
“And we have massive support from the French people that come to the ground.”
Meanwhile, another talking point ahead of Sunday’s match was Fiji’s 30-22 victory over England at Twickenham in a warm-up match ahead of the World Cup.
When asked if there are any learnings from that recent loss to Fiji, England captain Owen Farrell said: “It helps to have played against them not so long ago but at the same time we feel like we’ve moved on – that feels like a long time ago.
“That’s not to say there’s not lessons to be learnt from it, that the threats are not the same, but we’ve been building since then.”
England head coach Steve Borthwick raised eyebrows with the selection of Marcus Smith as fullback.
“I analyse the opposition with my coaching team, we go through exactly how we want to play, then go through the selection process,” Borthwick explained.
“It was discussed months ago in the preparation camps and having that time with the players and being able to work on certain aspects has been brilliant – and I think Marcus has really embraced the opportunity [to move from flyhalf].
“You look at the back three players we have, it’s great to have different combinations and strengths. This starting back three is the right one for this weekend.”
Players to watch
For England: A big spotlight will be on Marcus Smith who replaces Freddie Steward at fullback. Smith can bring an attacking edge from the back and he can also rotate positions with flyhalf Owen Farrell. Fiji will be looking to test him under the high ball and see if he is a good defender at the back like Freddie Steward. The Fijians have some big players in their backline and England will look to Manu Tuilagi to combat that physicality in the midfield. England will also need Farrell to stamp his authority on the game from the beginning to ensure that there are no nervy moments in the final quarter. The breakdown battle will key in this one and Tom Curry will have a big role to play in disrupting Fiji’s ball.
For Fiji: Scrumhalf Frank Lomani has caused opposition teams a few problems in the past with his sniping runs around the fringes and England will have to be on high alert around him. In the midfield, Josua Tuisova is a powerhouse and if starts to get momentum then it will be a long day for England. Fiji will also be looking to create a little more space for their star wing Semi Radradra, who is still chasing his first try of RWC2023. Fiji will enter the match with a powerful back row and a player like Levani Botia has the physicality and dynamism to get his side over the advantage line.
Key RWC info
- This will be only the second time they have met in a knock-out game and first since the quarterfinal play-offs in 1999.
- England have led at half-time in both meetings by an average margin of 14 points.
- Fiji have only scored one first-half try against England at the Rugby World Cup, with Nemani Nadolo crossing in the 30th minute in 2015.
@rugby365com: England by nine points.
England: 15 Marcus Smith, 14 Jonny May, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Martin, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Ollie Lawrence.
Fiji: 15 Ilaisa Droasese, 14 Vinaya Habosi, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu (captain), 12 Josua Tuisova, 11 Semi Radradra, 10 Vilimoni Botitu, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Lekima Tagitagivalu, 5 Albert Tuisue, 4 Isoa Nasilasila, 3 Luke Tagi, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Eroni Mawi
Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Mesake Doge, 19 Meli Derenalagi, 20 Vilive Miramira, 21 Simione Kuruvoli, 22 Iosefo Masi, 23 Sireli Maqala
Date: Sunday, October 15
Venue: Stade de Marseille, Marseille
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT; 16.00 UK & Ireland time, 3.00 Monday, October 16 FJT)
Expected weather: It will be partly cloudy with gusty winds and a high of 22°C and a low of 12°C
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Additional reporting: @WorldRugby & AFP