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Graham Rowntree backs England to handle World Cup opening night pressure

Published 17/09/2015

Forwards coach Graham Rowntree says England should enjoy the
Forwards coach Graham Rowntree says England should enjoy the "time of their lives" at the home World Cup

England have been told to embrace the "time of their lives" with Graham Rowntree declaring it is under-pressure Fiji whose nerve will be tested when the World Cup opens at Twickenham on Friday night.

The hosts launch a ferociously competitive Pool A, that also includes Wales and Australia, against dangerous opponents who have been tipped by All Blacks great Jonah Lomu to spring an upset.

Months of build-up including a punishing summer training camp will finally end when the gaze of the rugby world turns to south-west London, and Rowntree insists England are ready to face sevens specialists Fiji.

"There's a lot of talk about this word 'upset', but we've prepared well for this game," forwards coach Rowntree said.

"For our guys, this is the time of their lives. They are on their own turf, in front of their families and friends, with potentially 15 million people watching on TV, 50 million country-wide supporting them.

"The players are aware of that support, so which team is the pressure on? That's my question.

"We've been ready for a couple of weeks. We've trained exceptionally well. It's been a long three months and it's been a tough camp.

"We've had a good work-out against some great nations in France and Ireland in our warm-up games. The lads are fitter than they've ever been. I'm excited for them."

England are strong favourites to begin their quest to atone for their World Cup debacle of four years ago by recording a seventh successive victory at Twickenham and Rowntree hopes to tap into the feelgood factor present for London 2012.

"This match will be very special, the opening night of a World Cup. It will be special for everyone," Rowntree said.

"We are well aware of the excitement and support. You can feel it walking around. It reminds me of the Olympics three years ago, when the whole country got behind it.

"It feels the same for me in this tournament, you can feel the support building and we'll see that on Friday."

Wales were dumped out of the World Cup by Fiji eight years ago and England could also fall victim to the Islanders, who are positioned ninth in the global rankings and have arrived on these shores with a squad hailed as the strongest and best prepared in their history.

Dynamic scrum-half Niko Matawalu, giant wing Nemani Nadolo and elusive centre Niki Goneva are the main threats, but the hosts also know they can still be targeted at the set piece and in defence, despite Fijian efforts to address these weaknesses.

"Fiji have challenges across the board. We've done our homework on them, like we would for any opposition, but our guys are a handful as well. They've got to stop us," Rowntree said.

Second row Geoff Parling agrees that Fiji should be wary of England, who will be wearing their red change and preparing in their away dressing room.

"As a forward pack Fiji are much better organised than they have been in the past. They've improved immensely over the last couple of seasons," Parling said.

"A number of them play in the Premiership and if we're not on it they're going to be a threat, but it's about us and what we can do against them."

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