England could be dark horses to reach the Rugby World Cup final, Fiji’s kicking coach Seremaia Bai said on Monday.
ENGLAND could be dark horses to reach the Rugby World Cup final, Fiji’s kicking coach Seremaia Bai said on Monday.
Fiji will play Pool D winners England in the quarter-finals in Marseille this weekend after securing second place in Pool C despite losing to Portugal on Sunday night.
The Flying Fijians limped over the line to reach the knock-out stages as they earned the losing bonus point needed in their shock 24-23 defeat to minnows Portugal.
That result ensured two-time former champions Australia missed out on the knock-out stages for the first time in their history.
England were in dire form ahead of the World Cup and actually lost to Fiji for the first time in their history.
But Bai sees parallels between this England team and the surprise finalists in 2007.
“It reminds me of the 2007 tournament where everybody wrote England off,” said Bai, who played in the Fijian team that also reached the quarter-finals in France that year.
“They have shown how good they are, with players who have played on the big stage. We respect that and take it on board.”
England have been largely poor since reaching the final at the last World Cup in 2019 and were in disarray coming into this tournament, having won only three out of their previous 11 matches.
But they sailed into the quarter-finals with four wins from four in Pool D, although the last of those against Samoa was clinched late on by their fingertips.
Bai, though, sees a team with few weaknesses.
“They’ve got a great kicking game, though I think they tend to run the ball more in this World Cup,” he said.
“Some of the individuals are world-class players. They have good set-pieces – lineouts and scrums – and some big ball carriers, so they are strong across the board.”
Even so, he said Fiji are feeling confident following their historic 30-22 win at Twickenham less than two months ago.
“It gives us great confidence going in to the game that we have beaten them, but the most important thing in a play-off is that anything can happen so we have to regroup, re-focus and we will have to prepare well for this resilient English side,” he said.