England and Fiji ready for World Cup opener

Both teams reported a clean bill of health over their final few days of preparations, with no changes to the matchday squads.


Thousands of fans were mingling outside the ground four hours before kickoff, though many more had a hair-raising matchday experience after a broken down train caused lengthy delays in journeys from central London.

In normal circumstances, a home game against Fiji would be a pretty straightforward operation for England but with the weight of expectation on the host nation and the islanders coming into the match after a rare lengthy period of preparation together, there was tension in the air.

Anything but an England win would be a huge shock, probably the biggest in the tournament’s history, but Stuart Lancaster’s side will also have an eye on the available bonus point for a four-try victory.

With Wales and Australia also in Pool A, the finishing order could be decided by bonus points gained against Fiji, with all three “big guns” expected to collect one against pool minnows Uruguay.

Despite that, England, who will wear red after losing the toss with their white-shirted rivals, will not come out tossing the ball around as they did in the try-fest of their final Six Nations game against France.

Fiji are at their most dangerous in broken play, with their powerful runners cutting loose from deep, and Lancaster will no doubt have instructed his side to keep things tight, at least for the first half.

“England cannot get caught up in the spirit of fun that Fiji can bring to the occasion,” 2003 World Cup winner Will Greenwood wrote on Friday.

“Their night is all about being, dour, miserable and hard-nosed.”

Fans who have paid up to 300 pounds for a ticket might not feel the same but if the hosts go on to lift the trophy back at Twickenham on Oct. 31 then few will complain about, or even remember, the match that kicked it all off.


England: 15-Mike Brown, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 12-Brad Barritt, 11-Jonny May, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs; 8-Ben Morgan, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 6-Tom Wood, 5-Geoff Parling, 4-Courtney Lawes, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Tom Youngs, 1-Joe Marler.

Replacements: 16-Rob Webber, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Kieran

Brookes, 19-Joe Launchbury, 20-Billy Vunipola, 21-Richard

Wigglesworth, 22-Owen Farrell, 23-Sam Burgess.

Fiji: 15-Metuisela Talebula, 14-Waisea Nayacalevu,

13-Vereniki Goneva, 12-Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11-Nemani Nadolo,

10-Ben Volavola; 9-Nikola Matawalu, 8-Sakiusa Masi Matadigo,

7-Akapusi Qera (captain), 6-Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5-Leone

Nakarawa, 4-Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3-Manasa Saulo, 2-Sunia

Koto, 1-Campese Ma’afu.

Replacements: 16-Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17-Peni Ravai, 18-

Isei Colati, 19-Tevita Cavubati, 20-Peceli Yato, 21-Nemia

Kenatale, 22-Joshua Matavesi, 23-Aseli Tikoirotuma.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

(Editing by John Geddie)