'Pooper' combo on the ball for Cup opener


The Flying Fijians are primed and ready to make a statement in their Rugby World Cup opener against Australia this afternoon.

Coach Eddie Jones has also picked the youthful combination of Tom Curry at blind-side and Sam Underhill at open-side for Sunday's game in Sapparo.

"We've got the greatest respect for Tonga as a World Cup opponent", Jones said.

"We are at the top of the ride now and we are looking down - everyone's nervous, everyone's excited".

Mako Vunipola is close to returning from a hamstring injury so his deputy Joe Marler is preferred at loosehead prop and the only surprise pick up-front is Courtney Lawes' presence at lock with Kruis settling for a place on the bench.

"We have had a lot of focus in that area ... because (when) we can get good field position and win quick ball then we know we have got the players with the attacking talent to match anyone".

Jones has been visible in his promotion of bags made by Japanese company "Hunting World", one of which hung from his shoulder as he passed through the arrival hall of Miyazaki Airport despite Canterbury being England's official kit supplier.

Cheika appeared to be referring to the extra burdens carried by his side as a result of the Folau furore when he said: "We do our absolute best and wherever the cards fall, I'll be absolutely proud of my team".

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"This is a massive challenge for us, but we have nothing to lose and I think England are under more pressure than us".

It's the question that rugby followers have been mulling over all year: whether the selectors should make the hard choice between picking either the Australian skipper or Australia's reigning John Eales medallist, or picking them both together.

"Our squad has probably been a bit more settled".

John McKee expects the Wallabies to stick with the up-tempo game that overwhelmed the All Blacks in Perth and says the Fijians will relish the chance to go toe to toe under the Sapporo Dome roof. It becomes a family event.

England will start its Rugby World Cup campaign with George Ford at flyhalf and captain Owen Farrell at inside center.

"What I'm delighted with is the way we've prepared for this World Cup", he told reporters in Sapporo today after announcing his team to play Tonga.

Vunipola will start at No 8 as the nations clash in only the third instalment of a narrative that began two decades ago when Billy's father and uncle ran out at Twickenham for the Pacific Islanders in the 1999 version of the tournament.

Fly-half Kurt Morath, Tonga's all-time leading scorer with 340 Test points who plays for second-tier English team the Doncaster Knights, will lead the challenge.