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England have been watching footage of their calamitous defeat by Fiji in August as a reminder of what not to do in Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final.
Fiji stormed Twickenham 30-22 to claim their first ever victory over the red rose in eight meetings and defence coach Kevin Sinfield has been showing clips of the worst moments to the squad ahead of the rematch in Marseille.
To offset memories of the one the nation’s lowest ebbs, Sinfield has also been demonstrating to England how far they have successfully rebuilt come since that grim day.
“That match has been brought up this week. We would have been stupid not to because it was almost like a line in the sand, something for us to step forward from,” hooker Jamie George said.
“We learned a huge amount that week and we are a significantly better side on the back of it.
“We weren’t physical enough and some clips have been shown because it is a reminder we can’t be that team again, playing against a very, very good Fiji who are very dangerous when you give them what they want.
“Kev Sinfield said ‘I wasn’t sure about showing you this, but we can’t be this team again’.
“We are still hurting from performances like that, I still hurt from performances three years ago. You don’t like to be reminded of those things but if that can fuel the fire then why not?
We learned a huge amount that week and we are a significantly better side on the back of it
“It has been received really well and the way we trained today (Wednesday) showed our intent is going to be very different, there was a bite to training.
“We probably got a few things wrong tactically during the week of that game but emotionally and physically we were off as well for whatever reason. It was us not being the England team we wanted to be.
“Fiji running riot at Twickenham and it’s been like ‘that can’t happen’ and then showing some positive clips of where we have come to now, how we have defended through the World Cup.”
Since that victory, the Islanders’ progress has been mixed with the narrowest of defeats to Wales and a victory over Australia, followed by an escape against Georgia and shock loss to Portugal.
They grew steadily worse as Pool C unfolded, perhaps in evidence of the pressure they are under to meet the expectations of a hopeful nation and at being cast as darlings of the World Cup.
England are significant favourites heading into the Stade Velodrome showdown but lightning could strike twice against one of the most naturally gifted teams in the tournament.
“I’m a fan of their work. I like how they have grown their set piece, everyone talks about Fiji and thinks about their offloading game, which they are fantastic at, they talk about the way they move the ball but they are a team that if you break it down are based around the set piece,” George said.
“They have big men in the pack who know what they are doing, they have played in top leagues for a long time. The way they have evolved their game is impressive and they deserve to be in this quarter-final.”
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