Scrumhalf Ben Youngs has warned England of the danger posed by Fiji if they enter the second half of Friday’s World Cup opener sensing an upset is possible.
Given the competitive nature of Pool A, which also includes Australia and Wales, any slip-up could prove fatal to the host’s World Cup hopes.
The Islanders are heavy underdogs but know that if they remain in touch by the interval, they could take advantage of a restless Twickenham crowd and crank up the pressure on the tournament hosts.
It is a message that Youngs is keen to emphasise after several chances were butchered in last weekend’s 21-13 victory over Ireland, enabling the 6 Nations champions to remain in the hunt when they should have been dead and buried.
“You’ve got to put teams to bed early. If we get three opportunities early on against Fiji, then we must take them,” scrum-half Youngs said.
“They’re not the sort of side you want to still be in the game at half-time or 60 minutes because they have the ability to score from anywhere.
“They have so many threats like their offloading and stepping. And they’re all power athletes. We need to make sure we’re not keeping them in the game and feeding their belief.
“Ireland is a good example of what we can’t do. We had two tries disallowed and there were a couple of overlaps when we chose to throw long rather than pick them off.
“Fiji’s confidence will surge if they’re still in the game around the 60-minute mark. And a team like Fiji are always going to do the unexpected, so you have to be on your guard.”
Fiji’s biggest attacking dangers are scrum-half Nikola Matawalu, giant wing Nemani Nadolo and centre Vereniki Goneva, who is one of Youngs’ team-mates at Leicester
“It’s just ridiculous what Fijians can do with limited space and footwork and they also have the strength to go with it,” Youngs said.
“We know how dangerous Matawalu is. Give them any room in which to operate and they’ll make you look silly. Defence is a key part of our game and we’ve got to make sure we’re watertight.
“I am fully aware by speaking to Vereniki how much the opening game will mean to them and they don’t want to make up the numbers. They want to win and really cause problems and make everyone fight for everything.
“We’ve filtered that into the group – everyone is aware we have to give them the ultimate respect because some of the best players in the world are Fijian.”