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Fiji look to reach their first ever semi-final as England face their biggest challenge yet

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Sunday Oct 15, 2023

England arrive in Marseille prepared for the biggest match of their World Cup campaign, as they look to contain a Fiji side already with major scalps in this competition. Having already beaten England once this year, the Pacific Island nation will be fancying their chances against an England side devoid of support. 

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What: Rugby World Cup – Quarter Final

Who:  England vs. Fiji

When: 15/10/2023 – 17:00 local time

Where: Stade de Marseille, Marseille

Team News:

England: The big statement is Marcus Smith’s inclusion at full back, replacing the normally ever-present Freddie Steward. The 6 ft 5 in Leicester player drops out of the squad entirely with Borthwick opting for The halfback combination of Danny Care and George Ford on the bench alongside centre Ollie Lawrence.

Fiji: Fiji have implemented five changes to the lineup that suffered the loss to Portugal in their final pool match.

Tevita Ikanivere is set to make his World Cup starting debut as a hooker, while Sam Matavesi, who recently experienced the loss of his father Sireli Matavesi, will be among the substitutes.

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Semi Radradra, who was absent during the loss to Portugal in the Pacific Islanders’ last pool match, will be returning to the wing.

Line ups:

England: Smith; May, Marchant, Tuilagi, Daly; Farrell (capt), Mitchell; Genge, George, Cole, Itoje, Chessum, Lawes, Curry, Earl.

Replacements: Dan, Marler, Sinckler, Martin, Vunipola, Care, Ford, Lawrence.

Fiji: Droasese; Habosi, Nayacalevu (capt), Tuisova, Radradra; Botitu, Lomani; Mawi, Ikanivere, Tagi, Nasilasila, Tuisue, Tagitagivalu, Botia, Mata.

Replacements: Matavesi, Ravai, Doge, Derenalagi, Miramira, Kuruvoli, Masi, Maqala.

Words from the camps:

England – Steve Borthwick: “It’s brilliant to be here in knockout rugby. The team has been building through the tournament and to now be here – we know it’s exciting.

“The players are embracing the challenge and they are going to rise it. These are big players who perform in the big games and we have seen that again through this tournament.

“The focus of the players has been exceptional. I ask them to train hard every day. We have built through this tournament and we have also been conscious that we need to learn and develop quickly as a team.

“This is a coaching team that has only been with this playing group since the start of this World Cup preparation. I sensed this week those big players love these challenges and it’s a great challenge.”

Fiji – Seremaia Bai: “The team would like to send our condolences to Sam and the family [following the death of his father].

“In Fiji family is everything. We have been 15 weeks away from our families since we started this campaign so we make that this becomes our family. If one suffers, we all suffer. In Fiji we are kind of a family even if we are from different provinces. We become very close.

“We know the players and the families come from humble beginnings and we make sure there is the care and the love that they need. It is a very tough moment but we need to stay together and care for one another.”

Key match up:

Marcus Smith vs Entire Fijian backline

There has been a lot said about Marcus Smith’s attacking prowess, but very little said about his defensive capabilities. Being the final line of defence can be a daunting task, especially when that task involves stopping charging Fijians. Not known to dominate the tackle zone, Smith will likely need the support of his wingers.

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This being said, Smith has proven to be a brave player, putting his body on the line against much larger players. His last minute, last ditch tackle against Samoa in the previous game proves just that.

Stats:

Prediction:

England 18 – 15 Fiji

Nerves will likely contribute to this match much more than either side would wish. England are facing the grueling prospect of pleasing their fans, whilst Fiji have an opportunity to go further than they ever have before.

It will be tight.

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