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If England think their opening game against Fiji will be a walkover then they must think again, especially with Akapusi Qera in the side, says Ben Morgan The groundswell of
13 Sep 2015 10:43
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Vodafone Flying Fijians captain Akapusi Qera in London last week. Photo: World Rugby

If England think their opening game against Fiji will be a walkover then they must think again, especially with Akapusi Qera in the side, says Ben Morgan

The groundswell of support is building, the call-to-arms grows ever more orchestrated, but if England think that they will be the sole beneficiaries of the emotional swirl as they approach the World Cup opener, then Ben Morgan has put them on their guard for he knows better than anyone the passion that former Gloucester teammate, Akapusi Qera will engender in the hearts of every single Fijian.

 

England

England do not have exclusive rights to the mood-setting hype and hoopla next week.

Fijian captain, Qera, is a master of manipulation himself. Morgan played alongside him in the Gloucester back-row and is aware how charged the Fijian opposition will be under his leadership.

“When Qera speaks, he has the country behind him,” said Morgan. “He is the sort of person you listen to. I can only imagine the sort of stuff he is saying ahead of this game. From my own experience, he is a good leader, and a lot of what he says will be emotionally-driven. He is a really important member of the team. Anyone would be a fool to underestimate Fiji.”

Morgan knows his adversary after spending three years in the Kingsholm trenches alongside him.

Qera, 31, has already been punching those emotional buttons, declaiming that Fiji have a team who “looks after each other and would die for each other”.

Even allowing for the fact that such extreme self-sacrifice is not actually required on a rugby field, there is no doubt that Fiji have got their act together and are a far more formidable outfit than the one that lost to England, 54-12, in 2012.

This is 2007 vintage, the Fiji that beat Wales in the pool and came within a whisker of toppling the eventual world champion Springboks in the quarterfinals.

 

Best Fijian line-up

Qera believes that this is the best Fijian line-up he has played with over the past decade and has the potential ‘to surprise the world.’

“Whatever words come from an English guy, we’ll just take it and we’ll just give it back on the day,” said Qera.

“What we have over other teams is the brotherhood we have with and for each other. That is the spirit we will be taking into the first game against England. I have faith in these boys. England is a do-or-die game for us.”

Morgan is under no illusion as to what awaits.

“Fiji have threats all across the field,” said Morgan.

“Their set-piece has tightened up and they represent a really tough challenge. The Fijians have plenty of ability, plenty of experience of the top competitions in Europe where most of their squad operate.

“The world’s eyes will be upon is, it is curtains up on the World Cup and Fiji have first crack at the host nation. That is why it is so important for us to get our preparation spot on.”

Morgan does not deal in delusions.

Morgan knows that England will need all the raucous backing they can summon if they are to quell the expected Fijian foray into Twickenham territory.

“Twickenham is our house, our home,” said Morgan.

“You feel it as you approach the stadium, the buzz, the excitement and it is great for us as players to know that you can rely on that support, that you have your back covered and that everyone wants to see you do well..”

Home advantage enhances England’s World Cup prospects. They have won their last seven matches at Twickenham and can feel confident of taking on all-comers there.

Morgan’s mind is focused on his own matters to hand. It may take another couple of run-outs before he is back to his rampaging best, as he was when proving a pivotal figure in the win over Australia last November.

“What I do know is that we all have to be right up there from the first whistle. There are no slip-ups allowed. It is knockout rugby from the start. This will be the biggest seven weeks of our careers,” he said.

Feedback: oseab@fijisun.com.fj

 

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