Rugby World Cup England vs Fiji lineups – Ford and Steward dropped in shock Borthwick axe swing

England face the Flying Fijians this weekend in quarter final number three of Rugby World Cup 2023. By the time of the kick-off two semi-finalists will always be decided as the tournament hurtles rapidly towards the business-end and ever closer to discovering the new champions of world.

England vs Fiji lineups and team news

Neither of these teams enter this game in exceptional form, creating a fascinating and unpredictable contest that could be feasibly play out as anything between an extra-time nail-bitter to a 20-point thumping.


Steve Borthwick is probably the only coach left in the tournament who doesn’t know his own first-choice starting XV. It has been a problem all throughout England’s World Cup cycle which has been accentuated by Borthwick’s puzzling selection this weekend. While George Ford and Lewis Ludlam were England’s standout star players in the comfortable wins over Argentina and Japan, the return of Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola from their respective bans has dropped both from the side despite a poor performance versus Samoa.

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 Photo by Icon sport


Furthermore, Freddie Steward, who has been one of the only mainstays in the England team in the last few years, consistently performing in the 15 shirt, has been inexplicably dropped from the entire squad for Marcus Smith, the fly-half who never played at fullback until this tournament.

It is possible Borthwick had this planned all along but just as likely that the coach is as confused as us by his array of options.

  1. Ellis Genge
  2. Jamie George
  3. Dan Cole
  4. Maro Itoje
  5. Ollie Chessum
  6. Courtney Lawes
  7. Tom Curry
  8. Ben Earl
  9. Alex Mitchell
  10. Owen Farrell
  11. Elliot Daly
  12. Manu Tuilagi
  13. Joe Marchant
  14. Jonny May
  15. Marcus Smith

16. Theo Dan, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. George Martin, 20, Billy Vunipola, 21. Danny Care, 22. George Ford, 23. Ollie Lawrence


Simon Raiwalui has been more consistent in his election than Borthwick but still makes some interesting changes to the team who beat Georgia two weeks ago.

Photo by Icon sport

Sam Matavesi has been dropped for Tevita Ikanivere at hooker, Frank Lomani is opted for over the impressive Simione Kuruvoli at scrum-half and Temo Mayanavanua, who departed the Portugal match with an injury, is replaced in the starting team by Albert Tuisue

Furthermore, the Flying Fijian’s starting fly-half for their first three games, Teti Tela, is dropped from the squad completely, with Vilimoni Botitu starting for the second week in a row after a shaky performance in the loss to Portugal.

  1. Eroni Mawhi
  2. Tevita Ikanivere
  3. Luke Tagi
  4. Isoa Nasilasila
  5. Albert Tuisue
  6. Lekima Tagitagivalu
  7. Levani Botia
  8. Villiame Mata
  9. Frank Lomani
  10. Vilimoni Botitu
  11. Semi Radradra
  12. Josua Tuisova
  13. Waisea Nayacalevu
  14. Vinaya Habosi
  15. Ilaisa Droasese

16. Sam Matavesi, 17. Peni Ravai, 18. Mesake Doge, 19. Meli Derenalagi, 20. Vilive Miramira, 21. Simione Kuruvoli, 22. Iosefo Masi, 23. Sireli Maqala

Lack of game-managers in Fiji team?

Whole essays, maybe full-length books, could be written about the puzzling decisions of Steve Borthwick but Simon Raiwalui has also made some suspicious decisions following being on the wrong side of one of the biggest Rugby World Cup upsets of all time.

Scrum-half Simione Kuruvoli has been one the Flying Fijian’s standout performers and one of the best goalkickers at the tournament. His usual partner Tela is also a fantastic manager of the game and possesses a cultured kicking game. To drop both for Lomani and Botitu, who is usually a centre at club level and rarely plays fly-half and struggled versus Portugal last week, is very puzzling.

It is possible Raiwalui will look to Kuruvoli in the last stanza of the match to come and win the game, anticpiating a close contest, however, on the face of it, these decisions are puzzling.

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