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Fijians could spoil the party - Lancaster

2015-09-15 08:26
Stuart Lancaster (Gallo)

London - Fiji pose a real threat to England in the opening match of this year's Rugby World Cup warned the hosts coach Stuart Lancaster.

Lancaster, who took up the post after Martin Johnson's calamitous stewardship of the 2011 campaign, is hoping his side do not fall prey on Friday at Twickenham to a similar upset that 2007 hosts France experienced in the opening game of that tournament in going down to Argentina.

The quietly-spoken Englishman - who will turn 46 on October 9 the eve of their final pool game with minnows Uruguay - is certainly not taking the unpredictable but hugely-talented Pacific Islanders lightly even though three years ago his side thrashed them 54-12.

"It is a big threat on Friday night," said Lancaster after naming an unchanged starting XV from the one that beat Six Nations champions Ireland in their final warm-up game.

"They (Fiji) are going to be ready to play, we need to be ready.

"The trick is to make sure we are prepared mentally and physically but not to be overcome by the whole experience.

"There is a lot of experience in the team now and that should count on Friday.

"I don't think they have been beaten for a while. They are ahead of Scotland in the rankings and just behind Argentina.

"They have high quality players and are well coached. They are very strong and physical and they can brush off the best of defenders."

Lancaster, whose side are in the so-called pool of death with fellow giants two-time champions Australia and Six Nations rivals Wales, said the squad was fully aware they were carrying the expectations of a nation with them.

"The support of a nation is behind the team. Friday will be a great occasion for the whole squad and for the country," said Lancaster, who tried to ease the pre-match tension by giving the players the weekend off.

"We are in a unique position to be playing in a World Cup on home soil and to have the support of a nation behind the team.

"That support will be a massive factor and we don't underestimate its importance."

Captain Chris Robshaw, who will equal Johnson's mark of captaining England 39 times though still 20 short of Will Carling's record 59 Tests, preferred not to look at the long term prospects of getting out of the pool.

"There a lot of good teams in the pool but all our attention is on Fiji," said Robshaw, who was a surprise choice as skipper by Lancaster back in 2012 when he had just one cap to his name.

"It is going to be an emotional rollercoaster, the first game with the huge amount of support behind us."

The game will also be a highly-charged one for scrumhalf Ben Youngs, as he will celebrate his 50th cap, only five years after making his debut.

"I'd like to congratulate Ben Youngs on his achievement," said Lancaster.

"To win 50 caps for your country in such a relatively short period of time is testament to Ben's dedication and commitment."

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