‘Big-game players’ are ready to step up says England's Jamie George
Jamie George says England will call upon all their big-game experience to overcome Fiji in Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final.
England have appeared in the last eight of the tournament in all but one of its editions – on home soil in 2015 – and reached the final four years ago when they lost 32-12 to South Africa in Yokohama.
Of that matchday 23, there are 15 survivors currently in Steve Borthwick’s squad who are continuing preparations for the Stade Velodrome showdown.
Fiji, meanwhile, are appearing in the knockout phase for only the third time and their first since 2007, placing a question mark over their ability to deliver when the pressure is on.
“We can’t shy away from the fact this is probably one of the biggest games we are ever going to play in,” Saracens hooker George said. “We’ve got a lot of players who have been there and done that on some big stages. We’ve got players who have experience of a World Cup final and the latter stages of World Cups and some players who are playing in their fourth World Cup.
“We’ve got a great group of senior players who are very open and honest with the younger players who this could be intimidating for.
“But this is why we’re here. We want to play on the biggest stage, the quarter-final of a World Cup is exactly where we want to be. Next week want we to be in the semi-final and so on.
“These are exciting times and the more experienced players need to draw on their experiences and make sure everyone is in the right spirit going into the weekend.”
Simon Raiwalui’s men are regarded as the most complete Fiji team to have emerged from a nation of 925,000, even if their group campaign ended with a seismic upset by Portugal.
They have become less reliant on their historical strengths such as outrageous running skills and athletic offloads to become a force at the breakdown and the scrum.
Their line-out remains a recurring weakness, however, and this vulnerability will be targeted relentlessly by England with head coach Steve Borthwick and consultant coach George Kruis plotting their downfall.
“Fiji’s set piece as a whole has got better. Portugal targeted their line-out in particular and that was very interesting, particularly in how they went about it,” George said.
“We’ve got some complete lineout pigs in our team. George Kruis coming in, who is a complete nause and obviously Steve Borthwick – his father! – doing a lot.
“Their conversations together are not necessarily fascinating, but they are going to be coming up with a very good plan.
“We trust in that plan and we are going to try and put Fiji under a huge amount of pressure in that area. We trust the line-out pigs to be coming up with a good plan.”