Although most people are predicting an England win, it may not be quite that easy, especially if they don’t get these five things right…
1.The set piece
The set piece has always been fundamental to England’s game plan, such has been their superiority over almost everyone else in the scrum and line out. Unfortunately this is no longer the case after they were bettered by both Ireland and France during the World Cup warm ups. Against a side like Fiji that thrives on loose ball, the set piece will be absolutely critical.
2.The first 20
In recent years England have been slow to start in games, often finding themselves going behind in the first 20 minutes only to have to battle their way back in the final quarter. They have improved on this aspect in the last game or two, but it is absolutely vital to get themselves ahead early on in the game as it could cause Fiji’s heads to drop rather than having the opposite happen.
Fiji are likely to want to play a high tempo game that is loose where they can make the most of their potentially devastating backs. It is therefore down to England to control the tempo, particularly during the first hour so they can dictate the game before looking to open it up in the last 20 when their extra conditioning work will begin to pay off.
4.The decision making
On the opening night, and as the host nation, England may find themselves wanting to put on a show and to try and get the crowd worked up. This is not the game to be trying ambitious runs from deep, or to kick for the corner. Instead England need to focus on building the points when they get the opportunity unless they find themselves well ahead later in the game.
5.Dealing with Nadolo
There’s no doubting that Nadolo will be Fiji’s biggest threat, particularly as the giant wing lines up opposite the somewhat lightweight Anthony Watson. Failure to contain the threat of Nadolo could see England conceding tries which may impact them later on when it comes to points difference. Equally they cannot afford to ignore the rest of the backline as they attempt to deal with Nadolo.