We pick out two best bets as England aim to bounce back in their final World Cup warm-up against Fiji at Twickenham.
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After mixed results in their 2023 World Cup warm-up games, England will be eager to finish their pre-tournament schedule on a high against Fiji on Saturday before the main event in France gets underway.
England will be looking for a response after a 29-10 defeat to Ireland in Dublin last time out, but it won’t be easy against a Fijian side who are hoping to become the first Pacific Island side to take down the Red Rose.
Suspensions hit England hard
Losing the experienced pair of Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola to suspensions ahead of the World Cup has been far from ideal preparation for head coach Steve Borthwick and his team.
Both players have been found guilty of high tackles, with Farrell set to miss the first two games of the World Cup against Argentina and Japan, while Vunipola will just miss the opener against the Pumas in Marseille.
Saracens stars Farrell and Vunipola will be missing for the weekend, meaning Marcus Smith and George Ford will be competing for the No.10 shirt, while Ben Earl, Lewis Ludlam and Tom Curry will challenge for the No.8 spot in Vunipola’s absence.
The loss of the experienced pair will come as a double blow for England boss Borthwick, who could have used Farrell’s game management and Vunipola’s strength in what is set to be a physical battle against the Fijians.
While England should have the fitness and the strength at both lineout and scrum time to come out on top on home soil, Saturday’s encounter at Twickenham might well be tighter than some might think.
With that in mind, looking at Fiji in the handicap market is certainly worth considering for the weekend’s clash in London.
Expect Fiji to come flying out the blocks
Saturday’s game will be a good dress rehearsal for Fiji in their preparations for some big games at the World Cup, with the likes of Australia and Wales also in their pool.
Head coach Simon Raiwalui will see the weekend as a good opportunity to see how his side are shaping up against the top-tier nations, as they hope to cause an upset by beating the Wallabies or the Welsh to a place in the World Cup quarter-finals.
England’s superior fitness in the second half might well come to the fore, but expect the Fijians to throw everything at the hosts in the opening 40 minutes to try and unsettle the hosts and cause more doubts to creep in.
The English defence has been questionable this year, as the five tries they conceded against the Irish last time out at the Aviva Stadium demonstrated.
Fiji should fancy their chances of opening up this England defence once again and the Islanders might well be able to open up a lead at the half-time whistle.
Whether the Flying Fijians can maintain that potential lead until the final whistle at Rugby HQ remains to be seen.
Fiji to win the first half