Players like Nikola Matawalu and Vereniki Goneva could cause England problems in their Rugby World Cup opener against Fiji


By Stuart Clarke

England are widely expected to get their Rugby World Cup campaign off to a flying start against Fiji at Twickenham on Friday, but don’t expect the visitors to simply roll over.

As seems to be the case with many of the Pacific Islands, Fiji possess a number of players who mix sheer size with raw speed, creating problems for even the strongest defences.

>>> Where to watch England v Fiji

The England lines will have to be vigilant on Friday night, especially when the four players below are on the ball. If you don’t know their names yet, be sure to take a look at their video highlights and look out for them on the pitch.

Nikola Matawalu (scrum-half)

What Niko Matawalu lacks in height he more than makes up for in speed and trickery. The versatile back has been named at scrum-half for the England game, but he also lined up on the wing for Glasgow Warriors.

His exploits for the Scottish PRO12 side, including his masterclass from the bench against Cardiff Blues last season (above), earned him a move to Aviva Premiership side Bath in the off-season and he’ll be looking to show up a couple of his new teammates on Friday.

Videos courtesy of BBC Alba

Leone Nakarawa (second row)

Dubbed the “master of the offload”, Leone Nakarawa is a pretty fearsome ball carrier in the PRO12, as demonstrated in the final against Munster this year (above).

His size makes him hard to bring down, while his hands and speed of thought see him able to hand off to on-rushing teammates on a regular basis. With the creativity and strength in the Fijian backs, that’s an ominous combination.

Video courtesy of Setanta

Vereniki Goneva (centre)

Aviva Premiership fans will know Goneva’s name and his penchant for scoring impressive tries for Leicester Tigers. Equally adept on the wing as he is in the centres, Goneva will start at No 13 on Friday and will provide a tough test for the England defence.

Twenty-eight tries in 67 games for Tigers is a decent conversion rate and the 31-year-old has touched down 14 times in 35 games for his country.

Nemani Nadolo (wing)

Players like George North have almost reinvented the wing position in recent years, with tall, heavy speedsters replacing the traditional pocket rockets of yesteryear. But few come taller and heavier – and faster – than Nemani Nadolo.

Standing at 6ft 5in, Nadolo tips the scales at a couple of bags of sugar under 20st. Having that rumble towards you will strike fear into the best defenders, and it’s especially galling when he outruns you in a foot race.

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