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