When England suffered a first defeat to Fiji in August not many expected the sides would meet again two months later in a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal.
On Sunday, the 2003 winners face the Pacific Islanders in Marseille having topped their group unbeaten despite the unimpressive pre-tournament form and some unconvincing wins during their pool campaign.
Fiji finished second in Pool C thanks to a stunning maiden win over Australia in more than 60 years, but they did lose by a point to Portugal seven days out from their last-eight tie on the Mediterranean coast.
“They are a very good team and did a wonderful job in their group,” England defence coach Kevin Sinfield told reporters.
“They play with a really good spirit about them.
“We learnt a lot from it (the defeat) about six weeks ago and we will try to use some of those lessons along the way. I would say that Fiji have improved since that point as have we,” he added.
Sinfield’s side swept aside Argentina, Japan and Chile in clinical fashion in their opening three games at tournament.
They ended their pool campaign with a turgid one-point victory over Samoa on Sunday.
England held a review following the Fiji game, having lost their sixth game under recently-appointed head coach Steve Borthwick
“It was just an honest appraisal afterwards,” Sinfield said.
“Whether that had an effect or not, I am not sure but what I would say is that things certainly changed once we got to France and the World Cup started. We saw the intensity change,” the former England rugby league international added.
England are looking to go one better than 2019’s runners up finish as they embark on a eighth World Cup knock-out stage.
“I think they are the best weeks,” Sinfield said.
“There’s certainly an added pressure.
“If you don’t get it right you are going home.
“We understand the consequences of getting it right and we also understand the consequences of getting it wrong so we will be doing everything we can to make sure we get it right,” the 43-year-old added. Standing in their way will be the likes of exciting backs Waisea Nayacalevu and Josua Tuisova as well as flanker Levani Botia, who is a menace over the ball at ruck-time. – SuperSport.