Ben Morgan insists only a “fool” would discount Fiji, knowing they will enter the World Cup curtain-raiser against England roused by the support of a nation and the stirring words of their captain.
Morgan will line up opposite former Gloucester team-mate Akapusi Qera on Friday, when the Islanders visit Twickenham with the aim of opening the toughest group in the tournament’s history with a stunning upset.
England enter the match as heavy 1/50 favourites, but the time spent with Qera at Kingsholm has offered Morgan an insight into what to expect.
“Anyone would be a fool to underestimate Fiji,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s a momentous occasion that brings the curtain up on the World Cup.
“Fiji have first crack at the host nation and that’s why it is so very important that we get our preparation spot on.
“When Qera starts speaking, he’s the sort of person you listen to. I can only imagine the sort of stuff he’s saying to his squad ahead of playing England. He is a good leader.
“A lot of what he says will be emotionally-driven and, when he speaks, he has his country behind him. It’s the opening game of the World Cup and therefore a massive spectacle in its own right.
“Both teams will go out knowing the world’s eyes are on us, so we both face a big challenge. Fiji have threats all across the field, their set-piece has tightened up and they can attack from anywhere.
“In a World Cup you sense that need to be right on it from the start because one defeat and that could be it, particularly in a group as difficult as ours.”
England name their team on Monday with Morgan set to continue at number eight in what will be his third appearance since recovering from the broken ankle sustained in January.
The star of last autumn’s series at Twickenham was described by head coach Stuart Lancaster as “such a smart rugby player” after Ireland were dispatched on Sunday. And the Bristolian’s fitness is rapidly improving.
“I feel ready to go,” Morgan said. “The first game against France last week was all about taking the next step in my recovery.
“My confidence has gone right up as a result of the half I played against France and then the Ireland game. I’m confident I am back to where I was.”
Morgan’s place in the World Cup squad came at the expense of 37-year-old Nick Easter, who learned on the morning of announcement that his late charge for inclusion had been ended when his rival proved his fitness in training.
“I feel like everyone else who has been cut – gutted. I did as much as I could,” Easter said.
“I’d pleaded my case the day before with (forwards coach) Graham Rowntree. He said, ‘What do think about the situation with you and Morgan?’
“I talked myself up, of course – you’re fighting for your place, after all. Then Stuart made the call and there was no point in arguing.
“I think I’d done as much in 25 minutes when coming off the bench in Paris as I could, but it doesn’t all come down to what happens in warm-up games.
“You’d be pretty gutted if you’d started the last two years and then some young tyro comes through and played better in the audition game and gets selected.”
- PA Sport