World Cup: England will look to ignite Olympic fervour

England's Tom Wood talks to the media at Twickenham Stadium yesterday on the eve of the Rugby World Cup, which starts tonight at the ground, where the hosts will face Fiji (Picture: Paul Harding/PA).
England's Tom Wood talks to the media at Twickenham Stadium yesterday on the eve of the Rugby World Cup, which starts tonight at the ground, where the hosts will face Fiji (Picture: Paul Harding/PA).
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BLINDSIDE flanker Tom Wood insists England must inspire the type of patriotic pride that swept the nation during London 2012 to fuel their quest for World Cup glory.

The eighth instalment of the global showpiece begins when Fiji visit Twickenham tonight and the hosts must also meet Wales, Australia and Uruguay in Pool A, a group that will see at least one tier-one heavyweight return home early.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has stressed the need for his team to embrace their English identity with the help of their supporters and Wood has backed his sentiment by demanding his team-mates deliver performances that captivate imaginations.

“Stuart has talked a lot about being on the front foot with English identity and our national pride. We know what that can do for us,” Wood said.

“We want to try to harness that. We know what it did for the British athletes at the Olympics and we want some of that.

“We know it is a two-way thing. We have to go out there and give the crowd something to cheer – we have to show real intent, endeavour and execute well.

“Hopefully on the back of that there will be a snowball effect. They will get behind us and carry us through.”

Instrumental to England’s success over the next seven weeks will be the way they handle the pressure and expectation of being hosts and second favourites behind champions New Zealand to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

The performance and temperament against Fiji will be an important signpost, particularly if the match is finely-poised heading into the final quarter, and Wood knows the level of intensity must be pitched just right.

“It’s a difficult balancing act. You want to be in the zone, focus on your game and have tunnel vision, but at the same time we want to take full advantage of playing at home and the crowd,” Wood said.

“We want to soak up the atmosphere. We don’t want to look back and feel it passed us by.

“We want to really use that as best we can while keeping our eyes on the prize.

“It’s going to be a great occasion. The emotion can get the better of you. You can find yourself forcing things and getting carried away or you can be inspired to deliver the performance of your life.”

Wood insists that should England fail to make an impact, it will not be through lack of effort.

“I know we’re not entitled to win it. There are some great teams out there and I can’t promise you success,” Wood said.

“All I can say is that we’ve left no stone unturned in terms of our preparation.

“We have absolutely given everything to the cause, put ourselves through absolute torture in the gym and on the field.

“We’ve been committed to making each other better and I feel ready.

“I feel prepared and I hope that those lessons that were learned from finishing second in the Six Nations campaigns will stand us in good stead.

“We’ll manage the hype and expectation and all that comes with that on home soil, but I’m humble enough to know that there’s no entitlement and no guarantee.

“The bounce of the ball can be a cruel thing, a refereeing decision can go against you, so we just have to do our best to give ourselves the best possible chance in each and every game.”

Niki Goneva insists Fiji will draw on their spiritual strength when their “small island” turns its collective gaze to Twickenham tonight.

It will be early morning in the Pacific and Goneva, the Aviva Premiership’s leading try-scorer with Leicester for the 2013-14 season, said: “Everybody will be watching this game back home.

“Families and loved ones will come together to watch us.

“They will be looking forward to it. It will be early in the morning. They will be watching the game before breakfast.

“This match means a lot. We know that Fiji is a small island and it means a lot to the boys. It’s a big task in front of us. It’s not easy and we are playing for everybody back home, our family and our small island. Mentally, spiritually and physically we are strong.”