Fiji have insisted they will block out the “outside noise” surrounding the prospect of a World Cup quarter-final showdown against England, with the scrum-half Frank Lomani adamant the Pacific Islanders’ historic win at Twickenham last month would count for nothing.
Fiji stumbled to the cusp of what would be only a third appearance in the last eight with a jittery comeback win against Georgia in Bordeaux. Lomani came off the bench to kick seven vital points and leave Fiji within touching distance of the knockout stages after showing signs of nerves with a quarter-final spot beckoning.
After Australia’s bonus point win on Sunday, Fiji require just a solitary match point against Portugal next weekend to make sure of their place in the last eight. Assuming Wales beat Georgia – no foregone conclusion given the manner in which the latter played on Saturday – Fiji would advance in second place and face England in Marseille in two weeks’ time.
Last month Fiji clinched an impressive 30-22 win at Twickenham – the first time they had beaten England – but Lomani said: “That is history. England are a better side, for us we are just worrying about our team. We don’t worry about outside noise. We just focus on every game as a final. Even if we play England in a quarter-final, we are just going to play how we play.”
Levani Botia, who was named man of the match against Georgia after exerting his usual influence at the breakdown as well as teeing up Vinaya Habosi for the decisive try with a fine offload, has detailed the impact a place in the quarter-finals would have for Fiji. “It would mean a lot for us,” he said.
“We’ve got nothing. We have each other here. We see each other as a family. We play to represent ourselves, our families, our culture and our brothers. We play for those who are behind us and try to show them we are fighting for them.
“We don’t expect it to be an easy game against Portugal next week. We watched how they played. They were tough as well. I think that’s a good thing. We feel next week is going to prepare us for the quarter-final so we need to be at the same level. We can’t be in our comfort zone – we need to push up a little bit.”
England, meanwhile, have already qualified as pool winners for the last eight with a game to spare and can welcome Tom Curry back from suspension for the final pool match against Samoa on Saturday. Curry was sent off after less than three minutes in England’s opener against Argentina – his only appearance since Steve Borthwick took over – but has been straining at the leash in training as he prepares for his return.
“He is good, he is training well and he is in a good place,” the captain, Owen Farrell, said. “I don’t think there is too much revving up that Tom can do anyway – he is pretty much 100 percent every time you are out there training. I am sure he has got a bit of frustration at not being involved and I am sure he can’t wait to show what he can do and get out there with the team,” he said.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN/PACNEWS