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Rugby World Cup | Quarter-Finals
Oct 15, 2023 at 4pm UK
Tuilagi (14'), Marchant (23')
Mata (28'), Ravai (64'), Botitu (68')

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

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Rugby World Cup clash between England and Fiji, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

The penultimate match of the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals will see England look to maintain their perfect record in the competition when they face Fiji on Sunday at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.

England qualified for the final eight by clinching the top spot in Pool D, recording 18 points in their four matches, while Fiji finished second in Pool C, edging out Australia by a points difference of just four.

Match preview

England's Danny Care scores their second try on October 7, 2023© Reuters

England were under heavy scrutiny coming into this World Cup after finishing fourth in the Six Nations earlier in the year, swopping places with Scotland, who also secured the Calcutta Cup in the first match of that competition.

It did not get much better during the warm-up matches either, as Steve Borthwick's side lost three of their four matches, including a somewhat unexpected 30-22 defeat at the hands of their opponents in this match.

Nevertheless, having cracked a favourable pool, England did what they had to and got through the group stages with a 100% win record, starting with a win over Argentina, with George Ford kicking all 27 points in the 27-10 victory.

They then managed a good win over Japan before posting their biggest win of the competition, overcoming Chile 71-0 in their third match, which also secured them a place in the knockout rounds.

With their place in the last eight secured, the Red Roses were arguably caught being a little complacent in their final group match, where they had to come from behind and just about managed to scrape an 18-17 win over Samoa.

Still, considering the group they have come through, some may argue that England have not been fully tested in this World Cup, and it will be interesting to see if they can fend off the Flying Fijians, who were too good for them just a couple of months ago.

Fiji's Waisea Nayacalevu celebrates scoring their first try with teammate Selesitino Ravutaumada on September 10, 2023© Reuters

Meanwhile, Fiji have emerged as the dark horse in the competition and are quickly becoming a fan favourite at the 2023 RWC as they continue to play with their hearts on their sleeves.

Many expected Fiji to ruffle a few feathers in this tournament, and they did just that, starting in their first match, where they came flying back against Wales in the second half and were agonisingly close to securing what would have been a dream start.

However, that did not deter Simon Raiwalui's side, who put on a masterclass in their second match to beat Australia 22-15, which, in essence, was the beginning of the end for Eddie Jones's mem.

After beating Georgia 17-12, Fiji, like their opponents, may have been a guilty of taking their final opponents for granted and lost their last group stage match 24-23 to Portugal, who earned their first-ever World Cup win.

Nevertheless, owning to the bonus point they received for losing by fewer than seven points, Fiji got through to the knockout stages and are now hoping they can reach the final four for the first time in their history.

Taking into account the result between these two, this is arguably one of the most even encounters in the quarter-final, and the winner of this match will have to recover quickly and prepare for a huge clash against either France or South Africa in the final four.

England Rugby World Cup form:

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  • W

England form (all competitions):

  • L
  • L
  • W
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  • W

Fiji Rugby World Cup form:

  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L

Fiji form (all competitions):

  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L

Team News

England's Owen Farrell prepares to kick penalty on October 7, 2023© Reuters

Borthwick was faced with a major selection conundrum for this encounter, and after much speculation, the England head coach has opted to hand Owen Farrell the number 10 jersey while Ford drops to the bench.

Marcus Smith also returns to the starting lineup in place of Freddie Steward, and he will play at full-back alongside Elliot Daly on the left wing, while Jonny May moves to the opposite flank for this encounter.

Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum retain their positions as locks, vice-captain Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry will occupy the blind and openside respectively, with Ben Earl taking on the role of number eight.

Fiji will be without the services of speedster Selestino Ravutaumada, who has been left out for this crucial match, and the dependable Semi Radradra will replace him on the left wing.

The return of Radradra means that Vinaya Habosi will move to the opposite wing while Ilaisa Droasese will line up between them at full-back.

The remainder of the backline remains unaltered, with Josua Tuisova and captain Waisea Nayacalevu forming the centre combination, while Frank Lomani and Vilimoni Botitu will serve as the half-back pairing.

England starting lineup: 15. Marcus Smith, 14. Jonny May, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Elliot Daly, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Alex Mitchell, 8. Ben Earl, 7. Tom Curry, 6. Courtney Lawes, 5. Ollie Chessum, 4. Maro Itoje, 3. Dan Cole, 2. Jamie George, 1. Ellis Genge

Replacements: 16. Theo Dan, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. George Martin, 20. Billy Vunipola, 21. Danny Care, 22. George Ford, 23. Ollie Lawrence

Fiji starting lineup: 15. Ilaisa Droasese, 14. Vinaya Habosi, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu (c), 12. Josua Tuisova, 11. Semi Radradra, 10. Vilimoni Botitu, 9. Frank Lomani, 8. Viliame Mata, 7. Levani Botia, 6. Lekima Tagitagivalu, 5. Albert Tuisue, 4. Isoa Nasilasila, 3. Luke Tagi, 2. Tevita Ikanivere, 1. Eroni Mawi

Replacements: 16. Sam Matavesi, 17. Peni Ravai, 18. Mesake Doge, 19. Meli Derenalagi, 20. Vilive Miramira, 21. Simione Kuruvoli, 22. Iosefo Masi, 23. Sireli Maqala

Head To Head

These sides have met on eight previous occasions, and England won the first seven of those matches. Fiji claimed their first win over England in August this year when they beat the English at Twickenham 30-22.

SM words green background

We say: England 27-24 Fiji

This could easily turn out to be one of the best matches of the World Cup, as there is very little to choose between these sides based on their performances in this competition. However, England have the experience in these big game situations, and while we expect the Flying Fijians to run them to the wire, we are backing the Red Roses to get over the line with a narrow win.

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