22 mins. England pin an increasingly tired looking Fiji back in their own half again via the boot, but are penalised at the lineout. Fiji can do little with it as they yet again knock on a simple pass. Back come the Red Roses on the 22.
TRY! Fiji 0 – 10 England (Amy Cockayne)
18 mins. England’s first real phased attack easily punches holes in the Fijian defence with some offloading and powerful, direct running. Aldcroft is nearly over the line and is stopped short, but Fiji are offside.
The penalty goes to the corner and the inevitable catch and drive is walks over and Cockayne does the textbook hooker’s grounding
Scarratt is wide from the tee again
15 mins. For all the Fijian endeavour, England look imperious in the scrum and in their game management in possession. The latest example sees the Red Roses win a penalty as their pack pushes the Fijians back hard.
13 mins. More examples of said Fiji trouble causing as they again come down the right and find the galloping Nakoci. They come back into the middle of the field as the winger is stopped and England can do not but infringe at the breakdown as they are stretched.
Fiji tap and go from the penaly, and Vika Maturugu is over the line but held up by the red tacklers.
A little bit more precision from Fiji and England will have a lot to deal with here.
9 mins. It’s very early, but Fiji look like they will cause England some trouble here. However, the favourites are managing the game well by putting their foot through the ball regularly to force the debutants to play from deep.
8 mins. An immediate chance for Fiji to counter-punch after England fumble the restart. Another big carry from Naisewa off the base of the scrum sets them up in the Red Roses half. They send it right through hands, but the England defence is up to the task and force Nakoci into touch
TRY! Fiji 0 – England (Claudia McDonald)
5 mins. From a lineout close to the Fiji line the England forwards catch and drive, allowing Infante to pass the ball left to McDonald on the left touchline to scamper over.
Scarratt slices a difficult conversion wide.
3 mins. Prop Siteri Rasolea has a rumble forward from in her own 5m area, and this is followed by a number of attempts by Fiji to carry out from very deep to no avail. England eventually smother an attempted clearing kick.
Emily Scarratt sprays a cross kick but Naikore gets to it first before Lydia Thompson
1 mins. Fiji receive the kick off and straight away there’s a big run from Karalaini Naisewa to get in behind the England tacklers. But next up it’s fumbled and England scrum and clear. Decent start for the debutants.
“Kia ora Lee,” shouts out Mandy Roberts, “We’re following your live updates from inside a slightly chilly Eden Park. Ngā mihi!”
While I’m flattered, I really think you should watch the actual game rather than my nonsense.
There are tears aplenty rolling down several Fijian players cheeks in this incredible World Cup debut moment for them. Wonderful stuff.
Here come the teams!
Eden Park welcomes the two sides; Fiji in their traditional white shirts and black shorts and England in their dark change kit.
Anthems now, rugby soon.
I’ve only had a bloody email!
“Hello Lee”, says a sympathatic Gavin Twedily all the way from Montreal, “I’ve just read your preamble and you sounded lonely so I wanted to say hi and let you know you are not alone. I hope you and everyone else enjoys a fine tournament.
“England look favourites, New Zealand and France will be good, but I really hope Canada does well. Bisous de Montreal!”
How lovely of you, Gavin, thankyou. And Canada are in with a decent shot of at least a semi-final.
Pre Match Reading for you…
Why not take in the full rundown of the groups with this masterful guide from Sarah Rendell.
Why not get in touch? It’s very early here in the UK so send the text equivalent of ProPlus my way via the traditional e-mail or the modern tweet @bloodandmud
Senirusi Seruvakula has named a strong team, pulling from the successful Drua side and other Super W teams. Captain Sereima Leweniqila shifts to the second row to partner Asiante Serevi, while teenager Sulita Waisega starts at blindside and Karalaini Naisea is in the captain’s usual Number 8 berth. In the backs, keep your eye on the electric Vitalina Naikore on the wing.
For the Red Roses, Simon Middleton has the luxury of casting his gaze over the most enviable squad list in world rugby, and his selection today reflects the quality at his disposal.
Sarah Hunter will captain the side from the base of the scrum, with the incomparable Emily Scarratt as vice-captain from the outside centre shirt. Ellie Kildunne stays at fullback and Sadia Kabeya claims the open-side flanker position.
The bench should frankly terrify Fiji, and it’s a huge moment for Abby Dow who has managed to recover from an horrific leg injury in the Six Nations to make the replacements today.
Iris Verebalavu, Vika Maturugu, Siteri Rasolea; Asinate Serevi, Sereima Leweniqila(c); Sulita Waisega, Ema Adivitaloga, Karalaini Naisewa; Lavena Cavuru, Merewalesi Rokouono; Alowesi Nakoci, Rajieli Laqeretabua, Sesenieli Donu, Vitalina Naikore; Roela Radiniyavuni.
16. Bitila Tawake, 17. Bulou Vasuturaga, 18. Mereoni Vonosere, 19. Merevesi Ofakimalino, 20. Raijieli Daveua, 21. Akosita Ravato, 22. Ana Maria Roqica, 23. Melaia Matanatabu
Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern; Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Ward; Alex Matthews, Sadia Kabeya, Sarah Hunter (c); Leanne Infante, Zoe Harrison; Lydia Thompson, Emily Scarratt, Helena Rowland, Claudia MacDonald; Ellie Kildunne.
16. Connie Powell, 17. Hannah Botterman, 18. Maud Muir, 19. Cath O’Donnell, 20. Poppy Cleall, 21. Lucy Packer, 22. Holly Aitchison, 23. Abby Dow
It’s been a long time coming for this match in more ways that one. The tournament itself is a full year late to arrive due to the spiteful virus, and moreover this is the first meeting between the two sides in the 16 years they have co-existed at international level.
This is also the Fijiana’s first appearance in the big tournament, and while arriving with a hefty assignment to defeat the 25-match unbeaten Red Roses is quite the inaugural task, they are not a team short of ability. A fact ably demonstrated by the Fijiana Drua domestic side’s undefeated season in the Super W this year, where their brand of all park running was brilliant to watch and often devastating for the opposition.
But this England side have been here before. Each time a new and novel challenge presents itself they usually go about their business of dishing out a hammering.
Let’s see if it’s the same today.