- Lancaster, Rowntree, Cole, Marler Goode and Launchbury on Fiji
- England focus on themselves and say they must deliver
By their own admission, England take a step into the unknown against Fiji on Saturday.
In the closely analysed world of international rugby, footage of the Pacific Islanders’ last game against Japan in June has been sought and scrutinized, but only five starters from the 25-19 victory will begin the opening QBE International at Twickenham.
European based players such as Exeter Chiefs’ tackle-buster Sireli Naqelevuki or Leicester Tigers wing Vereniki Goneva, who Richard Cockerill says has “given us gold dust”, are there, but a picture of how the whole team will play is harder to paint.
Given that, England’s mantra this week has been to focus on themselves, thereby giving the visitors the respect they deserve by preparing with the same intensity and industry of any other Test week.
Photo: Getty Images
As Stuart Lancaster explained: “While we’ve had a quick look at what Fiji will offer, we focus on the detail of our game technically and tactically, and putting our defence systems and attacking structures in place.”
Loosehead prop Joe Marler, who will win his fourth cap at the weekend, admits to a sense of mystery surrounding Fiji but said: “We’ll concentrate on our game, just the same as if we were playing Australia this week.”
Twickenham Stadium is sold out for a tier two nation for the first time and for lock Joe Launchbury, who is set to make his debut off the bench, that only adds to the duty to perform.
“We’re coming back to play in front of 82,000 at Twickenham, so it’s a massive game regardless of the opposition,” said the 21-year-old, who attracted praise from Lancaster in the build up to the tune of “look at the size of him”.
Photo: Getty Images
Alongside talking about the responsibilities which accompany every England game, production time was a phrase used by England Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree this week to describe the situation England are in this autumn. He said the pressure is on, both internally and externally, to deliver wins, a sentiment backed up by Marler.
“The honeymoon period is over,” explained the 23-year-old. “ We’ve got a new culture, which is brilliant, and we’re a tightknit group who enjoy coming into camp but we all want to start performing now.”
Tighthead Dan Cole, who will be separated from front row colleague Marler by debutant hooker Tom Youngs, picks up the theme: “We’ve got to win games, we can’t use the fact that we’re young and inexperienced as an excuse for not performing well. We can’t guarantee we’ll win every game but we’ve got to play as close to our potential as possible, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Focussing on themselves, no complacency and aware of the need to deliver results: England are ready for Fiji.