Rugby World Cup: England wings set for massive test against Fiji

Lancaster names team with Anthony Watson or Jonny May up against gargantuan Fijian flyer Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo / Jonny May
(Image credit: Getty)

Stuart Lancaster has named the 15 men who will begin England's quest for the Rugby World Cup on Friday when they face Fiji, and in-form wingers Jonny May and Anthony Watson face a baptism of fire as they prepare to face their South Sea counterparts including Nemani Nadolo, who stands four inches taller than the Englishmen and is almost 40kg heavier than May.

Faced with the prospect of a physical encounter with the Fijians, Lancaster has kept faith with the team that defeated Ireland ten days ago at Twickenham. That means Ben Morgan starts at number eight with Billy Vunipola on the bench and Geoff Parling retains his place in the second-row at the expense of Joe Launchbury.

As expected, former rugby league star Sam Burgess is on the bench while hooker Rob Webber replaces Jamie George in the one change to the squad that beat Ireland 21-13.

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"Friday will be a great occasion for the whole squad and for the country," said Lancaster, who will hand scrum-half Ben Youngs his 50th cap. "We are in a unique position to be playing in a World Cup on home soil and to have the support of a nation behind the team. That support will be a massive factor and we don't underestimate its importance."

There was never likely to be much chance of Lancaster springing any major surprises in his selection against a Fiji side that will provide a stern test of the hosts. The exciting wing duo of May and Watson will look to continue their recent rich vein of try-scoring although questions will be asked of them both defensively by the Fijian wingers, particularly the gargantuan Nemani Nadolo, and who at 127kgs is nearly 40kgs heavier than May.

England's clash with Fiji opens the eighth Rugby World Cup and the first to be staged in England since 1991. On that occasion the hosts reached the final (where they lost to Australia) and their captain on that day believes how England handle the pressure will be critical to their chances of success this time around.

"Part of the pressure is to deal with it and to stay calm, stay controlled and realise they have got four pool games, there is plenty of time and to start well," explained Will Carling. "It's important they start in a controlled, composed way, that will give them a lot of confidence."

The captain on Friday, Chris Robshaw, acknowledged that playing a World Cup on home soil brings with it advantages and disadvantages. "We've spoken a little bit about what to expect, and what's different," he said. "As players it's about going out there and playing our game, and trying not to get too caught up in the emotion...[but] when you see how much support is out there, then it definitely makes you feel like something bigger is happening. We've got a country behind us and we are really looking forward to it."


Mike Brown (Harlequins); Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby); George Ford (Bath Rugby); Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers); Joe Marler (Harlequins), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Geoff Parling (Exeter Chiefs), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Chris Robshaw (capt, Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby).


Rob Webber (Bath Rugby), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Kieran Brookes (Northampton Saints), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby).

England v Fiji, Friday, 8pm on ITV1

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