Preview: England v Fiji

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 11:50

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Eddie Jones wants England to batter Fiji into submission with a display of "fish and chips" rugby at Twickenham on Saturday.

The England coach has warned his side against getting caught up in a loose and open game that plays to the strengths of Fiji, who became the inaugural Olympic Sevens gold medallists at this year's Rio Games.

Instead the Australian, bidding for his 11th straight win as England coach since taking over following last year's World Cup, wants the team to stick to their forward game, as much associated with the Red Rose in Rugby Union as fish and chips is with English cuisine.

Jones, in a reference to the notoriously strong drink brewed in Fiji, said Saturday is no time for a "kava party".

"You can't join the party," insisted the former Australia and Japan coach.

"They want to have a kava party. We don't want to have a kava party, we want to eat fish and chips, so we will be making sure we eat fish and chips on Saturday!"

Jones added: "You just don't want to open the game up too much. Go anywhere in Fiji and you see kids aged 10 throwing 10-15 metre torpedo passes through their legs. So we have to play a structured, controlled and positive type of game.

"There will be 80,000-plus fans at Twickenham again and we are going to put on a very vibrant, aggressive display."

Jones, who has delayed naming his team until Friday due to injury concerns over forwards Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and centre Elliot Daly, is determined to avoid any complacency following England's 37-21 victory over South Africa last weekend.

"Fiji are one of the most iconic teams in the world who play a fantastic brand of rugby," he said. "Looking at the side they have picked, it is full of talent."

Jones added: "I remember taking Japan there in 2013 to Suva. A monsoon came down, it was the heaviest rain I've ever seen and we got absolutely scrummed to death. They scored two length-of-the-field tries with remarkable skills, just handling the ball like it was a dry ball."

Meanwhile, England captain Dylan Hartley, a Northampton team-mate of Wood, echoed Jones's concerns about being drawn into an open game, as happened at times during a 35-11 win over Fiji at Twickenham in the opening match of last year's World Cup.

"Fiji have a couple of heavy set-piece operators in their front row who thrive on that contest," said the hooker.

"It's going to be confrontational and a challenge."

Fiji's team features a host of players with top-level club experience in the English Premiership, French Top 14 and the Celtic League.

Akapusi Qera, the Fiji captain, was well aware of the task his side faced against a rejuvenated England team.

"Eddie Jones has clearly inspired their players since he took over, said the Montpellier back row, formerly a fans' favourite at Gloucester.

"Playing them at Twickenham is always a very exciting prospect."

Fiji coach John McKee summed up the scale of Saturday's challenge by saying: "The team will have to be at their absolute best and very disciplined over the 80 minutes to succeed."

The New Zealander added: "The performance is in their hands, and they will go onto the field against England with fire in their bellies and ice in their minds."

Previous results:
2015: England won 35-11, London (World Cup pool match)
2012: England won 54-12, London
1999: England won 45-24, London (World Cup quarterfinal)
1991: England won 28-12, Suva
1989: England won 58-23, London
1988: England won 25-12, Suva

Prediction: If you're a betting man and looking for a long shot, put your money on Fiji - you will get very generous offs. However, don't expect to get your money back. England will win and by plenty - 25 points or more.

Teams:

England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Henry Slade.

Fiji: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Benito Masilevu, 13 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12 Albert Vulivuli, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Josh Matavesi, 9 Seru Vularika, 8 Akapusi Qera (captain), 7 Peceli Yato, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Manaia Saulo, 2 Sunia Koto Vuli, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Leeroy Atalifo, 19 Nemia Soqeta, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 Eremasi Radrodro, 22 Nikola Matawalu, 23 Kini Murimurivalu.

Date: Saturday, November 19
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 03.30, Sunday, November 20, Fiji time)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

Agence France-Presse