Farrell urges England to show their teeth in Fijian starter
The sense of restless energy at Twickenham yesterday was evident not just in the host of contractors busy about the place but also with backs coach Andy Farrell pledging that England show "no mercy".
England have surfed along on a tide of goodwill since Stuart Lancaster took over almost a year ago. It is time now, though, that this side started making a few waves of their own. No more benign understanding, no more slack to be cut for past sins, no more bedding-in. It is time to get serious.
As Fiji arrive as the warm-up act for the southern hemisphere muscleto come, England have to show that they are not as wet behind the ears as their inexperience on paper suggests.
"It's about us kicking on," said Farrell. "The intensity and passion and fight have to be there if we're to get the supporters behind us.
"We've got to be ruthless and take every opportunity. It's over to the players now and there is trust there of the highest order."
Lancaster dismisses the notion that Fiji are some sort of staging post to tougher challenges. Fair enough. The Pacific Island side can cause havoc with their broken-field running, and have players of rare worth in back-row Akapusi Qera and centres Sireli Naqelevuki and Vereniki Goneva.
But let's not pretend that they are a major force at 15-a-side. In five matches against Fiji, New Zealand average 72 points.
No bleating about first games of a series from them, no excuses proferred about fledging combinations finding their way.
Ruthless, imperious and unforgiving: those are the hallmarks of a blue-chip side. England lie fourth in the irb rankings.
Today, they have to play to that status. How do England do that? By being hard-nosed as well as intelligent; by being shrewd and resourceful in all aspects yet dominating at the set-piece and, if necessary, going for the Fijian jugular through that route.
The softening-up process by way of the pack is a legitimate strategy as England showed in demolishing a spindly Irish scrum at Twickenham eight months ago.
England are not the white-shirted orcs on steroids as once they were billed in New Zealand (it was a compliment).
They lack the grunt of that World Cup-winning era, the snarl, too.
It is time for the likes of prop Dan Cole to take a lead, carry ball, put opponents on their backside, with his team-mates piling in behind. It is time to show the claws. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
England -- A Goode, C Sharples, M Tuilagi, B Barritt, U Monye, T Flood, D Care; J Marler, T Youngs, D Cole; T Palmer, G Parling; T Johnson, C Robshaw (capt), T Waldrom. Reps: D Paice, D Wilson, M Vunipola, J Launchbury, T Wood, B Youngs, O Farrell, M Brown.
Fiji -- S Koniferedi, S Wara, V Goneva, S Naqelevuki, W Votu, M Talebula, N Matawalu; R Penijamini Makutu, V Veikoso, D Manu; L Nakarawa, A Ratuniyarw; A Naikatini, M Ravulo, A Qera. Reps: S Naureure, S Samoca, M Saulo, S Kalou, I Ratuva, K Bola, J Matavesi, R Fatiak.
Ref -- G Jackson (New Zealand)
England v Fiji,
Sky Sports 1, 2.30