Fiji target upset over England
Fiji confident they can upset World Cup favourites on their home ground
Fiji have stepped up the psychological pressure on England, sending out the message they expect to inflict a humiliating defeat for the World Cup hosts in the tournament opener on Friday.
The Pacific Islanders appear to have targeted England and the injury-hit Wales as their two must-win games, along with a third victory over the Pool A lightweights Uruguay if they are to make the quarter-finals
Coach John McKee has resisted the temptation to fire all his guns at Australia and Wales, saying he will field his top side against England.
Captain Akapusi Qera said it was a "massive opportunity" to make the play-offs for only the third time, after previously reaching the quarter-finals in 1987 and 2007.
"We've been picked for this squad for a reason, and that reason is to play against England and do all we can to topple them on their home ground," the Montpellier back-rower said.
"This World Cup in England is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We're not going to let it pass us by. Friday night is a massive, massive opportunity for Fiji."
Pool A is widely regarded as the Pool of Death - with England, Australia, Wales and Fiji, vying for the two quarter-final slots - but McKee describes it as the pool of opportunity.
"We're looking to those games to take some scalps and progress to the play-offs. There's going to be a lot of twists and turns in the pool," he said.
"We know it's a massive challenge ahead of us. England are a very strong side. If we let them, they can dominate the game. The atmosphere will be great - it's a big motivator for the players."
McKee said he had a fully-fit squad available and would be holding nothing back against England.
"We'll be playing our strongest team," he said, leaving open the option of rotating players if required when they play Australia five days later.
McKee could not fault his side's build-up, saying the sharp training session on Monday had put them into game mode.
"We really focused on the things that we need to do in the game. It's about the game. The opening ceremony is interesting, but it's a distraction," he said.
McKee's focus since taking over as Fiji head coach last year has been in making the side more competitive at set-pieces and the improvement was evident when they beat Pacific Islands arch-rivals Samoa to win the recent Pacific Nations Cup tournament.
"In international rugby, the set-pieces are critical to success. It's not just about this competition," he said.
"If you look at our performances, you'll see a steady improvement in that area. I don't think we're going to be a dominant team in that area, but we know we have to be strong in that area to hold our own.
"With good preparation comes confidence."
England rank among the leading contenders to win the tournament, playing before their home crowd but, if Fiji have their way, it will not be the first time a Rugby World Cup has started with an upset.
In the opening game of the 2007 World Cup, Argentina downed hosts France 17-12 and both sides went on to make the semi-finals. - AFP.
We're looking to those games to take some scalps and progress to the play-offs. There's going to be a lot of twists and turns in the pool.
— Fiji coach John McKee, on being in the Pool of Death