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friendly | International Rugby Union
Aug 26, 2023 at 3.15pm UK
May (9'), Smith (57'), Marchant (68')
Nayacalevu (43'), Habosi (52'), Kuruvoli (72')

Preview: England vs. Fiji - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's friendly clash between England and Fiji, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

With just two weeks left until the start of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, England and Fiji will face off for one more warm-up match at Twickenham Stadium this Saturday.

The hosts come into this match after losing 29-10 to Ireland in Dublin last weekend, while the visitors saw their four-match winning streak end with a 34-17 defeat against France.

Match preview

England's Ollie Chessum looks dejected after Republic of Ireland's Mack Hansen scores their fourth try on August 19, 2023© Reuters

England are naturally the favourites heading into this match on home soil, but it has been anything but smooth sailing for Steve Borthwick's side in the build-up to the World Cup, and a loss in this match could be disastrous just days before the main tournament.

The hosts ended the Six Nations tournament earlier this year in fourth place, behind Scotland, who moved up a spot from the previous year and also won the Calcutta Cup in the first match of the competition.

Since then, it has not got much better for the English, who were beaten fairly comprehensively by Wales in Cardiff a week later, and while they won the reverse fixture 19-17, the Dragons had fielded a second-string side and were just moments away from winning the match.

Last weekend, England were battered by the world number one Ireland, who outclassed their neighbours on every level, including the scoreline, which ended 29-10 and arguably could have been a lot more.

To add to their woes, following a high tackle against Wales, Owen Farrell is set to miss this match and the first two at the World Cup, while Billy Vunipola's red card in Dublin last week will mean that he sits out this encounter and their World Cup opener.

Scotland's Sam Skinner in action against Fiji in November 2019© Reuters

Meanwhile, in complete contrast to their opponents camp, the Fijian's preparations for the World Cup have been going quite well, and they are emerging as one of the potential dark horses of the competition.

Vern Cotter has got his side into a good rhythm as they showed last month in the 2023 Pacific Nations Cup, where they won the competition with a perfect record of three wins in three matches while also securing a bonus point in each game.

During that competition, Fiji beat Tonga 36-20, Samoa 33-19 and Japan 35-12 en route to the title, and with those results, they also leapfrogged Wales into ninth place in the world standings.

The only blip in an otherwise excellent summer season was their loss to France last weekend, but that will not dent their confidence too badly since their performance in the match was solid, and had it not been for a few individual errors, the scoreline might have looked quite different.

England form (all competitions):

  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L

Fiji form (all competitions):

  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L

Team News

George Ford will continue at fly-half in the absence of Farrell, while Ben Earl will replace Vunipola, who is still the only specialist in the number eight role.

The surprise selection for this weekend is Jonny May at left-wing after he was left out of Borthwick's initial squad for the World Cup, though he is now in contention for a late inclusion with Anthony Watson picking up an injury and expected to miss the tournament in France.

Cotter has made several changes to his starting 15 for this match, with the likes of Levani Botia and Isoa Nasilasila making way for Lekima Tagitagivalu and Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta.

The backline has also been revamped with Freddie Steward coming in at full-back, and he will be joined by Max Malins and May on either flank.

England starting lineup: 15. Freddie Steward, 14. Max Malins, 13. Ollie Lawrence, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Jonny May, 10. George Ford, 9. Alex Mitchell, 8. Ben Earl, 7. Jack Willis, 6. Courtney Lawes (c), 5. Ollie Chessum, 4. Maro Itoje, 3. Dan Cole, 2. Theo Dan, 1. Ellis Genge

Replacements: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Will Stuart, 19. David Ribbans, 20. Lewis Ludlam, 21. Danny Care, 22. Marcus Smith, 23. Joe Marchant

Fiji starting lineup: 15. Ilaisa Droasese, 14. Selestino Ravutaumada, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu (c), 12. Semi Radradra, 11. Vinaya Habosi, 10. Caleb Muntz, 9. Frank Lomani, 8. Viliame Mata, 7. Lekima Tagitagivalu, 6. Albert Tuisue, 5. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 4. Isoa Nasilasila, 3. Luke Tagi, 2. Sam Matavesi, 1. Eroni Mawi

Replacements: 16. Zuriel Togiatama, 17. Jone Koroiduadua, 18. Samu Tawake, 19. Temo Mayanavanua, 20. Vilive Miramira, 21. Simione Kuruvoli, 22. Teti Tela, 23. Kalaveti Ravouvou

Head To Head

These sides have met on seven occasions in the past, and England have won all seven matches. The last match between these sides was in 2016.

SM words green background

We say: England 24-14 Fiji

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Owen Farrell pictured during England training in August 2023
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