James Mason predicts a comfortable victory for England when they meet Fiji in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
Having made light work of the pool stage, England have their sights firmly set on a sixth Rugby World Cup semi-final when they meet Fiji in Sunday’s quarter-final clash in Marseille
The Red Rose topped Pool D with four wins out of four to set up a revenge game with the Flying Fijians, who upset Steve Borthwick’s side at Twickenham in the build-up to the World Cup.
Fiji snuck through to just their third quarter-final and first in 16 years by edging out Australia for second place in Pool C, but a first-ever semi-final berth and second successive win over England may prove beyond the Pacific Island nation.
England -10.5 @ 11/10
Time of first try – 15 minutes & after @ 5/6
Red Rose to exact revenge in Marseille
England were at a low ebb when they last met Fiji back in August and members of the squad have said that the result still stings.
That defeat heaped the pressure on Borthwick’s side and led to predictions of a shock pool stage exit for the 2003 world champions.
England have been able to largely quell those doubts, beating Argentina, Japan and Chile by double-digit margins before edging out Samoa by one point in their final group game.
The Samoa game aside, England have kept their opponents at arms’ reach thanks to some excellent defensive work.
Only France and South Africa have conceded fewer points at the World Cup and while England came through a relatively soft section, there has been a greater intensity and tenacity to their work without the ball.
They look capable of shutting down a Fiji attack that hasn’t been firing on all cylinders of late with Simon Raiwalui’s men scoring 17 points in a narrow win over Georgia before bagging 23 in defeat to Portugal.
Fiji have already lost twice at this World Cup and have looked steadily worse as the tournament has gone on, while England are growing in confidence.
The last time England played a World Cup quarter-final in Marseille, they edged out Australia. This time around, they should be far more comfortable winners and maintain an average winning margin of 17.5 points from their two previous World Cup encounters with Fiji.
Stade Velodrome unlikely to see early points
Neither England or Fiji have been particularly quick out of the blocks at the Rugby World Cup and that could translate to a cagey start for their quarter-final clash.
Ollie Chessum’s try against Samoa was the first England had scored in the opening 20 minutes of a match at the World Cup, while Fiji’s last three games haven’t produced a try before 15 minutes.
The Flying Fijians haven’t scored a first-half try since their pool stage opener against Wales and even with many of their squad having played in big knockout games for their clubs, the pressure of doing it on a global stage may limit them early on.
Winds won’t make goal kicking easy
Sunday’s match in Marseille is set to be the windiest of the World Cup so far with gusts of up to 33mph on an otherwise dry day.
England’s Owen Farrell may have recently surpassed Jonny Wilkinson as the country’s all-time leading point scorer but gone are the days when he would be automatic from the tee.
Meanwhile, Fiji are having to rely on scrum-half Frank Lomani to kick their goals in the absence of Caleb Muntz and he’s missed two penalties in two of his last three games.
The two teams combined for only four penalty kicks in August’s meeting, while Fiji’s excellent disciplinary record may limit how many shots at goal they afford England.
On a blustery day in the south of France, it’s worth chancing that less than six penalties are scored.