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England v Fiji preview: Flying Fijians can give England a scare

England will be hoping to give the Twickenham faithful something to cheer about as they prepare to face Fiji in their final warm-up game before the start of the 2023 World Cup.

It has been a mixed pre-season schedule for Steve Borthwick’s side, and it will be important to sign off with a win before facing Argentina in their first World Cup outing in Marseille on 9th September.

WhatEngland v Fiji
WhereTwickenham, London
When15:15, Saturday 26th August 2023
How to watchAmazon Prime
OddsEngland 2/9, Tie 25/1, Fiji 10/3

Suspensions overshadow England prep

The suspensions of England skipper Owen Farrell and specialist No.8 Billy Vunipola have overshadowed the hosts’ preparations for Saturday’s encounter at Twickenham.

World Rugby have appealed to uphold the red card received by Owen Farrell in a Summer Nations match against Wales earlier this month, meaning the Saracens star is still set to miss England’s first two games at the World Cup against Argentina and Japan.

Farrell has had a history of no-arm tackles and his latest infraction has come as a blow to the Red Rose ahead of the global tournament.

Vunipola was red-carded for a similar challenge last time out in a defeat to Ireland in Dublin and the fellow Sarries star has been handed a two-game suspension.

Both players will be absent for the weekend, which leaves England short on quality and experience for the clash with Fiji.

Marcus Smith and George Ford will be competing for the No.10 jersey over the coming weeks, while Ben Earl, Lewis Ludlam and Tom Curry will be battling to fill the back-row void left by Vunipola.

England are firm favourites going into this encounter at 2/9 for the win in 80 minutes, but confidence might well be fragile in the camp ahead of this encounter with the Flying Fijians.

Fiji get free shot at the big boys

Fiji will need to cause at least one upset at the World Cup if they are to progress through to the knockout stage of the competition.

The Pacific Islanders find themselves in a pool which includes both Australia and Wales.

Neither the Welsh nor the Wallabies look formidable at present and Fiji might well be quietly confident they can take down at least one of the top-tier nations.

Facing England at Twickenham therefore looks to be the perfect preparation for head coach Simon Raiwalui and his side.

Raiwalui has not been afraid to make big calls when it comes to selection and there were certainly a few eyebrows raised when Racing 92 fly-half Ben Volavola was left out of the Fijian World Cup squad.

Caleb Muntz and Teti Tela will be competing for a starting role at outside-half, with a big role to play in keeping this Fiji side organised and playing in the right areas of the field.

The visitors are outsiders at 10/3 to land what would be their first-ever victory over England, who have never lost to a Pacific Island side in their history.  

A tight encounter on the cards

Fiji will have been studying England’s recent performances and will feel there are weaknesses there, certainly in defence.

England conceded another five tries last time out against Ireland and it looks like Red Rose defence coach Kevin Sinfield has his work cut out for him to turn things around at the World Cup.

Players have been falling off tackles and that goes all the way back to some disappointing results in the last Six Nations.

England can’t afford to miss tackles against the Fijians and, even if they do make their hits, the hosts will have to be wary of the tremendous offloads the visitors are capable of.

England's superior fitness and ability from the set-piece means that they should still be fancied to come out on top in this final warm-up game before the highly-anticipated World Cup across the Channel.

However, Fiji have the attack and physicality to make this a tighter affair than some might be predicting.

Looking to the Handicap market, Fiji are available at 10/11 to come out on top with +10.5 points on the day. 

Fiji are also capable of making a quick start out of the blocks and are on offer at 13/8 in the race to 10 points on Saturday.

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