Rugby Union

England unchanged for Fiji opener

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England have announced that they will begin the Rugby World Cup with an unchanged side this week. The hosts take on Fiji on Friday night in the first match of the tournament.

The fixture will be played at Twickenham, as England look to win the World Cup for the first time since 2003. 

Expectation is high in the home nation, with England among the highest-rated Northern hemisphere sides in the competition.


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Their pool is arguably the most competitive in the competition, with Wales and Australia also competing with them for two spots. Uruguay - and Fiji - make up the rest of the group.

It is felt that England should, with home advantage, have enough in the tank to progress from the pool. If England win the pool, they will likely play against Scotland or Samoa in the quarter-final at Twickenham on October 18. If, however, England finish as runners-up, their route to the final becomes much more difficult, with a probable tie against South Africa on October 18.

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The strongest northern hemisphere sides appear to be England and Ireland though Wales are a match for almost anybody on their day. They will be without Leigh Halfpenny, the leader of their backs division, making them considerably weaker.

France might well pose a threat to some good sides, but it would be a surprise if they could put a run together in the fashion they did in 2011, where they reached the final in the unlikeliest of circumstances. 

Of the southern hemisphere sides, it is New Zealand who will attract the greatest attention. The holders remain a formidable outfit, with many of their 2011 contingent looking to retain the trophy. New Zealand suffered a disappointing loss to Australia last month but got revenge the following week to re-establish their pre-eminence in the field. 

Australia did show that on their day they can go on and beat the very best. All of these sides will stand in England's way if they are to triumph on home soil when the competition gets underway this week at HQ. In the meantime, England will look to the players who performed reasonably in the warm-ups to step it up now and lead the charge to win the Webb-Ellis cup.

The full squad for the fixture:

England: 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).

Replacements: 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).

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Rugby Union
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IRB Rugby World Cup

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