The England head coach, Stuart Lancaster, will make his first big selection call of the World Cup on Monday when he names his team for the first game against Fiji, with one of his senior players, the Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs, acknowledging that the dead weight of pressure will be on the host nation when they set the tournament in motion at Twickenham on Friday night.
“Fiji can go out there and express themselves – they can throw the kitchen sink at us,” said Youngs on the eve of the team announcement. “We have to appreciate that they aren’t the ones with the expectation on their shoulders.
“Having said that, we want to put out a statement that says we’re here to win the title. The expectation on us is going to grow the further we go in the competition, so why not get used to it now? It’s going to come regardless, so we might as well deal with it in the first game rather than wait until we’re two games in and then suddenly realise that everyone’s eyes are on us.”
The indications are that Lancaster, encouraged by much of England’s rugby in the warm-up victory over Ireland nine days ago, will keep changes to a minimum. If he sticks to the same starting line-up and runs the Gloucester No 8 Ben Morgan ahead of Billy Vunipola of Saracens in the back row, it will place a crown upon one of the more remarkable rehabilitation stories of this rugby age.
Morgan suffered a badly broken leg in January and was doubtful for the summer training camp, let alone the final 31-man cut for the big event. Yet his contribution against Ireland in only his second comeback appearance has put him squarely in the frame for a place against Fiji.Reuse content