George Ford playing for England
George Ford will be tasked with igniting England’s attack from fly-half in Owen Farrell’s absence
Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 26 August Kick-off: 15:15 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

England will be looking to end their World Cup preparations on a high in their final warm-up match against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday amid a backdrop of scrutiny.

Steve Borthwick’s side have suffered tournament-ending injuries, disciplinary issues and a lack of cutting edge in attack.

Captain Owen Farrell and number eight Billy Vunipola are banned for high tackles, which will prevent them from playing in England’s World Cup opener against Argentina on 9 September.

Farrell will also miss England’s second pool game with Japan, but Vunipola will be available to face the Brave Blossoms if he completes the World Rugby coaching programme on tackling.

Both will miss Saturday’s warm-up against Fiji as part of their punishment, leaving George Ford to steer the England ship from fly-half with Ben Earl covering number eight.

Anthony Watson has joined Jack van Poortvliet as a casualty of Borthwick’s original 33-man squad with a calf injury, which further hampers a back line that have not scored a try in their three summer internationals so far.

Saturday’s defeat by Ireland was England’s fourth in their past five games, but defence coach Kevin Sinfield says the squad remains united despite the setbacks.

“We were a tight group already, but how you handle those setbacks and those obstacles are really important to how the team moves forward and how the team functions,” he said.

“After each one of those blows – if you call them that – we’ve got back up and gone again. We’ll continue to do that. These obstacles will continue to bring us closer together.

“In another group, in one that wasn’t as experienced or as hungry to do well, it might have been really, really challenging for us.

“When things start to pull apart there are fractures – groups start to break off and spend time together, sitting together and having separate meetings. There is none of that.

“They are very much together. Mealtime shows you a lot of that – where people sit, the time they spend together. And on the field, how hard they work.

“Performances haven’t been where they have needed to be, but we are having constructive conversations too.

“The players are working together and nobody is blaming anybody – they are the signs that let you know we have a good group.”

The game will almost certainly be an audition for Jonny May, who is not included in the 33-man squad but will start on the wing as cover for Watson.

Borthwick, who has until Monday’s deadline to name his final touring party, has said his side will be looking to convert their chances into “points on the scoreboard” against Fiji at what could be a half-full Twickenham, according to the Daily Mailexternal-link.

The contrast of an expected sellout for New Zealand’s warm-up against world champions South Africa on Friday at the home of English rugby could be just the motivation Borthwick’s men need to kickstart their campaign.

‘Our game has definitely evolved’

Fiji’s trip to Twickenham is also their last game before facing Wales in their World Cup opener on 10 September.

The Islanders are favoured as being one of the giant-killers in a pool which also includes an under-performing Australia and European sides Georgia and Portugal.

But lock Isoa Nasilasila says Fiji are trying to remain grounded.

“There’s a lot of hype around us but we’re trying to control that individually and as a team,” Nasilasila said.

“We want to stay humble and do our job on and off the field. Hopefully it will then all come together on the day.

“Our game has definitely evolved. We’re trying to get the technicalities of rugby in there.

“We want to create something rather than just going straight to the backs, offload, offload. We want to build something first and play from there.”


England: Steward; Malins, Lawrence, Tuilagi, May; Ford, Mitchell; Genge, Dan, Cole, Itoje, Chessum, Lawes (capt), Willis, Earl.

Replacements: Walker, Marler, Stuart, Ribbans, Ludlam, Care, Smith, Marchant.

Fiji: Droasese; Ravutaumada, Nayacalevu (capt), Radradra, Habosi; Muntz, Lomani; Mawi, Matavesi, Tagi, Nasilasila, Cirikidaveta, Tuisue, Tagitagivalu, Mata.

Replacements: Togiatama, Koroiduadua, Tawake, Mayanavanua, Miramira, Kuruvoli, Tela, Ravouvou.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa).

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