RUGBY WORLD CUP 2015
Saturday September 19, 5am
The opening World Cup match features England and Fiji, where there will no doubt be a massive weight of expectation on the host’s shoulders. Historically the host nation performs well at World Cups with five of the previous seven reaching the final. Twickenham has been a fortress of late with seven straight victories and Lancaster knows his side has to capitalise on their home advantage to get out of the ‘group of death’. Before facing Wales and Australia, England have to overcome potentially tricky opponents Fiji, a side they defeated 54-12 in November 2012 in their only head-to-head this century. The Fijians come into the tournament full of confidence off the back of a Pacific Nations Cup title and in any other pool would fancy their chances of qualifying but to oust two of Australia, England and Wales seems and improbable task.
England have come up against a Pacific Island nation on three occasions in the last three World Cups with their greatest margin of victory being a 44-22 win against Samoa in 2007. More recently England defeated Samoa at Twickenham 28-9 in November 2014 and Fiji should provide an even sterner test given that they overcame Samoa 39-29 last month in the final of the Pacific Nations Cup.
This is a very different Fijian side than that of the defeat at Twickenham in 2012. Prior to that matchup Fiji had won just five out of 18 compared to 12 in the same amount of games leading into this match, picking up three Pacific Nations Cup titles along the way. They’ve also had three away fixtures with Italy, France and Wales with an average losing margin of 11 points and no loss being greater than 25 points including narrowly going down by four points at the Millennium to a near full strength Wales side.
Taking everything into account we think Fiji are going to be competitive and are just the kind of team that will relish playing in the tournament opener so Fiji on the handicap looks a good selection.
It is also worth noting that in their three warm-up matches six of England’s seven tries were scored by wingers (including Joseph when he moved to the wing against France) and Anthony Watson has four tries in his last three appearances at Twickenham.