Walking out with the hordes leaving Twickenham two weeks ago, talk from English fans was how nervous they were about the World Cup’s opening game.
I can understand why.
Sure, England had just beat Ireland, one of this year’s more fancied teams. But it wasn’t a great game for either of them. It was pretty poor to watch, to be honest.
Saturday’s Cup opener against Fiji is one that, on paper, England should comfortably win.
But they’re the host nation, it’s the first game of the tournament and there’s a huge amount of pressure on them.
England have not had consistent selection in their pre-Cup games.
They’ve also had some controversial selections - tossing out the likes of Danny Cipriani and bringing in former league player Sam Burgess (but not playing him).
There’s a really unbalanced look about their side.
And then you’ve got the enigma that’s Fiji. They’ve shown great improvement in the last few years. And they’ve got Nemani Nadolo who can cut any team to pieces - as we’ve seen in Super rugby.
Pacific Island teams have shown that in big games, on the world’s biggest stage, if things start going their way they can be a handful.
The English fans are right to be nervous. This could be a really difficult game for them.
The rest of the rugby world will be watching England play Fiji because it’s a first-up indicator of how they will play at Twickenham. Are they going to make it their fortress? England don’t play anywhere else and that’s where the final is.
Personally, I’m not calling it on the telly so I’m looking forward to sitting back in my seat, grabbing a beer and a hot dog,and being entertained.
Two days later I’m back to work for the All Blacks against Argentina.
This is the pool game that everybody will get up to watch live. Most won’t get up for the Namibia or Georgia games - although plenty will set their alarm for Tonga.
New Zealand have to pick their quarter-final starting XV for the Argentina game.
You can bet the All Blacks selectors already know their quarter-final run-on players.
The only way a player can miss out now is to play their way out.
Waiseke Naholo’s unavailability means there could be experimentation in the outside backs. But you’d think the selectors will go with Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ben Smith and Julian Savea.
Blindside’s debatable but I think they’ll go for Jerome Kaino.
And who will partner Brodie Retallick at lock?
Argentina are not a walkover. They’ve been here for a while and played a warm-up game.
Plus, NZ are away from home. We need to get our number one team out there and make a real statement in this tournament.
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