Rugby World Cup
Conrad Smith compares England's Fiji win with All Blacks' 2011 opener against Tonga
Sam Bruce
September 19, 2015
England 35-11 Fiji (Australia only)

England should be able to settle down now the Rugby World Cup is underway, although the hype that goes with being the home nation will remain an ever-present reality, All Blacks veteran Conrad Smith says.

England on Friday night held off a stern challenge from Fiji, the hosts forced to battle through a torrid second half before Mike Brown's second five-pointer and Billy Vunipola's last-gasp bonus-point effort secured a slightly flattering 35-11 scoreline.

Stuart Lancaster's side had earlier been outplayed at the breakdown and endured mixed fortunes at scrum-time; they were also fortunate that Fiji's goal-kickers Nemani Nadolo - who was otherwise superb - and Ben Volavola missed a number of penalties.

Speaking at a golf event put on by major All Blacks sponsor AIG, Smith said the tournament opener resembled that of previous events and he backed England to improve as the weeks progress.

© Mark Roe 2015/Mark Roe 2015

"We watched the first half and then walked back from the thing and I missed pretty much all of the second half," Smith said. "It looked like a typical, early competition game, quite nervy and a lot of mistakes. But they obviously did the job in the second half.

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"They'll be better for it now they've had that game. And I think everyone will be the same ... you get that first game out of your way and of course you want to win it and win it well. But we're the same, we just want to run out on the field and it will be a lot better."

New Zealand kicked of their 2011 triumph as tournament hosts with an opening 41-10 victory over Tonga at Auckland's Eden Park. Back-rower Victor Vito said the nerves had been high that evening, too.

"Well we were getting ready and we weren't able to warm up outside, so we had a change of routine and we were just warming up in our changing room," he said. "So that was quite different, but, yeah, I think the nerves for the occasion were high; but I think once kick-off went, it was pretty good just to run out on the field and get the job done really."

England next play bitter rivals Wales in a week's time, while New Zealand open their title defence against Rugby Championship rivals Argentina at Wembley on Sunday.

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© Sam Bruce

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