England are through to the semi-finals of Rugby World Cup 2023 after surviving a late fightback from Fiji to win 30-24 at Stade de Marseille this morning (Fiji Time).
Tries from Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant as well as 11 points from the boot of Owen Farrell had given England a handy 21-10 lead at half-time.
However, the Flying Fijians roared back into the game in the second half, scoring tries through Peni Ravai and Vilimoni Botitu to level things at 24-24.
In the end it was England fly-half and captain Farrell who settled things for the 2003 champions, kicking a drop goal to regain the lead before slotting a late penalty to secure victory and a place in the last four.
England will face South Africa in the second semi-final after the defending champions ended the dreams of hosts France with a 29-28 victory in a seven-try thriller in Saint-Denis.
The match, at Stade de France next Saturday, is a repeat of the final four years ago in Japan when the Springboks came out on top.
“It was what we expected. They are a tough, tough team that can turn it on in the blink of an eye,” said Farrell, the Mastercard Player of the Match, said of the victory over Fiji.
“I thought we started the game really well. We really got after it in that first half.
“We always knew Fiji were going to have some good patches and they did. To find a way to win and get through to the semi-finals is a big step forward but we know we have plenty of work to do.”
Fiji’s head coach Simon Raiwalui watched his team come close to an upset in the south of France only to fall to Farrell’s accuracy with the boot in the final eight minutes of normal time.
“I think it is just the start of something special,” said Raiwalui in the immediate aftermath of the match. “They wanted to create a new identity, I think they have done that.
“A couple of mistakes today, didn’t take our chances and we paid for it. But I couldn’t be prouder of the boys.
“We’ve worked so hard from week one, 15 weeks now and they’ve shown where we belong on the world stage.”
His England counterpart Steve Borthwick, while delighted to remain in the tournament, praised Raiwalui and his players.
“What a performance by Fiji, not just tonight but this World Cup. What a team they are. Well coached and jam-packed with world-class talent. We knew it was going to be a tough game and it was.”
Despite losing to Fiji for the first time in August, in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match at Twickenham, England have since risen to the tasks set before them in France.
“The players were written off,” said Borthwick. “A lot of people said we wouldn’t get out of the pool. We got out of the pool, now we got out of the quarter-final.
“Now these players have an opportunity in Paris in the semi-final. I am sure we will be written off again but these players rise to the occasion.”