Autumn Internationals 2012: England v Fiji Prediction

Twickenham

Ahead of the Southern Superpowers rolling into town, England face Fiji at HQ this Saturday. Unbelievably, these teams haven’t met in a 15-a-side match since 1999. Questions abound. How will this most inexperienced of England teams fare in the daunting atmosphere of Twickenham? Can they loosen the shackles and play free-flowing rugby? How will the Fiji squad deal with the pressure of Twickenham, and what sort of a threat do they pose? Here’s how I see it going.

Reasons to back England

Twickenham hasn’t always been a fortress since the 2003 World Cup; indeed, the Southern Hemisphere teams have enjoyed considerable success here. Nevertheless, England have home advantage and the sell-out crowd (the first time it has sold-out against a tier 2 nation) will be a major factor in their favour. No-one will be seeing this as a warm up match for the big 3; that’s not how Lancaster does things. England will be well prepared, and ready for a tussle.

England are young and ambitious, and they ought to be free to play with the reckless abandon of players who aren’t weighed down with negative experiences. Alex Goode won the battle for the 15 shirt over Mike Brown, and his ability to glide into space that seemingly isn’t there will be a major threat. Danny Care is in the form of his life and will keep the Fijian fringe defenders on their toes, and Manu Tuilagi will relish the opportunity to blast some holes through his fellow South-Sea Islanders. So while there may not be much experience there is certainly plenty to be optimistic and excited about from an English perspective.

Losing is simply not an option for England, as they look to get their campaign off to a convincing start, sending a message to their opposition in subsequent weeks. They are gearing up for an important run of games and have had plenty of time in camp to get themselves together – unlike Fiji, who will be hugely underprepared having only recently come together from all over the world.

Reasons to back Fiji

It will be tough for them, no doubt about it. There is, however, a backbone of quality players in the Fijian side; the question is whether they can work together. Watch out for Niki Goneva, a winger-come-centre who, as any Tigers fan can tell you has been playing exceptionally well this season. He lines up opposite club mate Manu Tuilagi in a bruising midfield clash. Alongside him Exeter giant Sireli Naqelevuki makes his first appearance for the international team in 2 years, to form a centre partnership that is lacking in neither power nor pace.

Another man to move from his club position is the ever reliable Gloucesterman Akapusi Qera, who starts at 8. Also watch out for Western Force flyer Samu Wara who will doubtless cause problems if given space. Scarlets prop Deacon Manu captains the side from the front row and will lead, as ever, by example. So there’s no doubt Fiji have the firepower to cause England issues, but whether they have had the time to come together as a team and thus have a chance to do so, remains to be seen.

Finally, no preview about this game would be complete without mentioning the inexperience of the England team. The starting line-up has just 215 caps, of which the 4 most experienced players (Toby Flood, Danny Care, Tom Palmer, and Dan Cole) have 154 between them. Tom Youngs makes his debut with fierce scrutiny surrounding his lineout throwing, while uncapped pair Mako Vunipola and Joe Launchbury will hope to get their first taste of international rugby from the bench. Can the Fijians spring a surprise on the English rookies?

Prediction: England by 18

What are your thoughts?

By Jamie Hosie

13 thoughts on “Autumn Internationals 2012: England v Fiji Prediction

  1. I always get slightly nervous about games that England SHOULD win comfortably…

    I think as long as we see some evidence that England have been working on at least one or two backs moves, that would be a good start. Quick ball will be key against Fiji, and if Danny Care has the ball on a plate all day, we should be able to strike before Fiji have a chance to work out what they are doing in defence.

    Not underestimating the Fijians, but with so little preparation time, defensive cohesion is bound to be an issue.

  2. The only reason we might lose is if we underestimate the Fijians, and I don’t think this England coaching team will allow that to happen.

    1. I don’t think we’ll lose, but if we dog it out for 70 minutes and score a couple of tries at the end, is that satisfactory? What should we be happy with as England fans?

  3. Once again no prep time for Fiji – as has happened in other years with other UK teams, I hope this is not just an excercise in improving the world rankings for the host team. The irb needs to make sure each team has adequate time together for a fair fight.

    1. There’s not much in it for England in terms of ranking points – playing at home against a side ranked several places below means there’s not much upside.

      It’s playing against the top 3 teams in the world where ranking points will be won, and France have a good chance to go above England this weekend if they beat the Aussies.

  4. Will neverforget the scare in 2003 they gave us! I agree with previous comments that lancaster will not let that happen but teams that go into this thinking all they have to do is get the set piece right risk falling prey to sevens style attacking unpredictable rugby. England need to explore space and attack, I think its a good selection based on that principle. This pack is capable from 1-8 of creating turnover ball too, which is great to see as an england fan! big dan cole fan!!!

  5. Loosening the shackles and playing free flowing rugby isn’t necessarily a good game plan against Fiji well not until you’ve ground them down up front first(Nantes 2007 is still a scar on my psyche).This Fijiaan side isn’t quite in the same league as that team and hampered by the usual lack of time together etc I would expect England to win by 20 points at least.

  6. England should win comfortably and hopefully playing the ‘weaker’ of the four Southern hemisphere nations will put us on the right track although saying that Fiji are no mugs but I have to admit I am surprised to see both Tonga and Canada placing higher than Fiji in the latest IRB rankings, what is this based on?

    1. Don’t try and work it out Dale. Its enough to to give you a migrane

      Compared to the IRB ranking system, cricket’s Duckworth-Lewis is a mere stroll in the proverbial park

  7. ok, heres my w/e predictions, no taking the p*ss if you have not done one yourself!
    england by 25-30
    wales by 5-10
    s.africa by 10-15
    france by 5-10
    all blacks by 20-25

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