GLASGOW lock Leone Nakarawa and former Warriors favourite Niko Matawalu have both been named in Fiji’s team for tomorrow evening’s Rugby World Cup opener against England at Twickenham.
Matawalu has recovered from the groin injury sustained against Canada ten days ago to take his place at scrum-half, while Nakarawa will start in the second row.
If we’re at our best, we know we can challenge them... our form is goodFiji head coach John McKee
Giant goalkicking wing Nemani Nadolo and Vereniki Goneva also take their places in the starting XV for the first game in what has been termed the “group of death”, with Wales, Australia and Uruguay also in Pool A.
Nakarawa stole the show in Glasgow’s win over Munster in this year’s Guinness Pro12 final with a brilliant off-loading display, while maverick Matawalu was a firm favourite with the Scotstoun crowd before leaving to join Bath at the end of the season.
Goneva, voted the 2013-14 players’ player of the year following an outstanding season at Leicester, starts at outside centre, with former Gloucester flanker Akapusi Qera leading the team.
Ben Volavola has been preferred ahead of Josh Matavesi at stand-off, with the latter named on the bench.
England are overwhelming favourites to launch Pool A with a victory, but Fiji head coach John McKee insists his recently-crowned Pacific Nations Cup champions are ready for the biggest match in the nation’s history. “We know we’ll have to be at our best to get the result we want on Friday night. If we’re at our best, we know we can challenge them,” McKee said.
“We know that to be successful on Friday we will have to play for the full 80. International rugby is an 80-minute game. The core of our team has been together since June last year. We’ve been building towards this tournament all the time.
“Our preparation and form have been good but we know this is quite a step-up from the Pacific Nations Cup, so we need to play our game at a higher intensity.”
Qera and Goneva have experience of playing in the Aviva Premiership while the brilliant Matawalu will join up with Bath after the World Cup.
“We have best mates in the England team, but, as soon as we cross the white line, that’s where the friendships end. We’ll then be friends again after the game on Friday,” Qera said.
Meanwhile, former New Zealand winger Jonah Lomu has warned England that Fiji will feel no fear tomorrow.
Fiji recorded a shock win against Wales in 2007 to reach the last eight and Lomu, who scored 15 tries across the 1995 and 1999 World Cups, believes they can defy the odds again. “They have an upset in them,” Lomu said.
“Somewhere along the line they’re going to knock over a big team and it could be England. The majority of their players, 80 per cent of them or so, play in Europe.
“They’re not intimidated in terms of playing against these guys because they play against them week in week out. They are a threat. England don’t see Fiji too often so they have to assert their authority early on and shut them out from the beginning.
“If you give them a sniff that they have a chance, it could be a long day at the office for the England team.”