By Robert Burgin, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 9/11/13
PUNDITS long ago circled the England-Fiji clash on this World Cup calendar as one of the more monumental of the tournament.
With Fiji bringing a well-credentialed squad to British shores, the match has appealed as a genuine chance for an outsider to usurp one of the ‘Big Three’ in the qualifying stages.
The game will also be played at a fiercely parochial venue, Hull’s 25,000-seater KC Stadium.
Bombed relentlessly by the Germans in the Second World War and a traditional home to dockers and sailors, Hull is a gritty city mad for rugby league.
A walk around town brings as many sightings of the Hull FC or Hull KR logo as that of Hull’s giant-killing Premier League team, the Tigers.
Though the tournament has already visited Hull, all games thus far have been at the smaller and more remote Craven Park.
KC Stadium holds pride of place in Hull, a short walk up Anlaby Road from the main shopping precinct and historic Paragon train station.
Built as recently as 2002, the stadium is bordered on the south by places like The Eagle pub, where Her Majesty’s naval forces drank in between long, searching missions in Arctic waters during WW2.
Directly to the north is Chanterlands Avenue Cemetery, where lies the remains of many Hull civilians and servicemen who did not survive the conflict.
Hull was indeed a dangerous place in the 20th Century, even for those who were not sent abroad.
Up to 300 bombs a night were dropped by the Luftwaffe on Hull in 1941, while more obscurely, the city was targeted by 12 zeppelin raids in WWI.
On the football field this season Hull fans have had a gut-wrenching year, so they’ll be hungry for fast-flowing entertainment to quell the pain.
Both the Sharks and Robins made the Super League finals this year, but were quick exits.
Hull KR went in week one of the post-season with a 46-10 loss to St Helens, while Hull FC made it to week two, only to be humiliated 76-18 by Huddersfield.
Hull FC also made this season’s Challenge Cup final, but came away 16-0 losers at Wembley in one of the most dire games seen in either hemisphere this year.
English coach Steve McNamara has a long association with the city, attending school at South Holderness Technology College and making his playing debut for the city in 1989.
Winger Tom Briscoe is another sure to receive a big cheer, playing nearly 150 games for Hull FC before announcing a switch to Leeds only a few weeks ago.
Fiji will throw everything they have at the home side, aware a win will not only help them leapfrog England in Group A, but perhaps also herald their arrival as a consistent top-four nation.
Though England has proved strong in appearances against Australia and Ireland, the 26-point margin for victory being offered by some bookmakers seems a great disrespect to the islanders.
Both teams should progress to the quarter finals regardless of the outcome (provided Australia beats Ireland) and will face either Samoa or France, depending on who wins and who loses.
ENGLAND v FIJI, KC Stadium Hull – 2.30pm Saturday, November 9.
ENGLAND: Carl Ablett, Tom Briscoe, George Burgess, Sam Burgess, Rob Burrow, Rangi Chase, Leroy Cudjoe, Liam Farrell, Brett Ferres, James Graham, Ryan Hall, Chris Hill, Michael McIlorum, Lee Mossop, Sean O’Loughlin, Kevin Sinfield, Sam Tomkins, Kallum Watkins, Ben Westwood.
FIJI: Peni Botiki, Jayson Bukuya, Petero Civoniceva, Kane Evans, Aaron Groom, Apisai Koroisau, Daryl Millard, Ryan Millard, Kevin Naiqama, Waisale Ligani Naiqama, Vitale Junior Roqica, Ashton Sims, Korbin Sims, Tariq Sims, James Storer, Akuila Uate, Eloni Vunakece, Sisa Ledua Waqa, Semi Radradra Turgasoli Waqavatu