Continuity in sporting selections is often a sign of confidence in a growing side and clearly Stuart Lancaster feels that way about his England charges, after naming an unchanged line-up for the World Cup opener against Fiji. With a first-game victory paramount to the home nation’s hopes of progressing from the group stages, he will be hoping to maintain the momentum that saw them past Ireland 21-13 at Twickenham last time out.
England unchanged from Ireland game
England will start the match on Friday that kicks off the eagerly anticipated #Rugby union tournament with the following fifteen men on show:
Forwards – Chris Robshaw (captain), Joe Marler, Ben Morgan, Tom Youngs, Geoff Parling, Courtney Lawes, Dan Cole, Tom Wood.
Backs – Ben Youngs, George Ford, Anthony Watson, Brad Barritt, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Mike Brown.
Power from the bench
Add into the mix the potentially explosive combination of Sam Burgess (a recent convert from rugby league) and Billy Vunipola from the bench and they should have a team capable of seeing off the challenge from the fired-up South Pacific islanders. Scrum-half Ben Youngs will be hoping for a solid performance as he wins his 50th cap, but must also keep his eye firmly on his opposite number, Nikola Matawalu.
Fiji should not be underestimated
While seeking to inject dynamism into their own game, England would be wise to avoid underestimating the flair and power that Fiji can offer though. Although their greatest successes have come in the Sevens World Series in the past, on their day they are perfectly capable of causing their more esteemed opponents trouble given the opportunity to do so.
Fiji’s captain Akapusi Qera will be well-known to Morgan and May among the England side, the 31-year-old flanker having featured for several seasons in the Gloucester squad. Now playing his rugby for Montpellier in France, he will be keen to instil an emotional element to his fellow countrymen’s display. Another familiar face in the squad is the Leicester back, Vereniki Goneva, with the giant Nemani Nadolo being a reliable goal kicker who plays on the wing and Matawalu sure to have a trick or two up his sleeve.
England play in Pool A alongside Australia, Wales, Uruguay and the Fijians. After their opening encounter, the remaining round-robin group fixtures will see them face Wales (Sept 26th), Australia (Oct 3rd) and then Uruguay (Oct 10th).
The tournament is comprised of four pools with five teams in each, the top two teams in each pool qualifying for the quarter-finals. The final itself will be held at Twickenham on October 31st as Lancaster’s men hope to emulate the achievements of the England side in 2003, when Jonny Wilkinson dropped that unforgettable World Cup-winning drop goal.