Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global

The England verdict on Levani Botia and a Fiji 'super strength'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

England have given their verdict on the threat posed by Levani Botia, the Fijian breakdown menace who will be on a mission next Sunday to eliminate Steve Borthwick’s team from the Rugby World Cup.


The Pool D-topping English have won their way through the quarter-finals by beating Argentina, Japan, Chile, and Samoa in successive matches at the finals, but they now face their biggest obstacle yet.

It was just over six weeks ago when Fiji came to Twickenham for the final match of the Summer Nations Series and secured a deserved 30-22 win.

Video Spacer

Rugbypass TV

Watch rugby on demand, from exclusive shows and documentaries to extended highlights from RWC 2023. Anywhere. Anytime. All for free!

Join us

Video Spacer

Rugbypass TV

Watch rugby on demand, from exclusive shows and documentaries to extended highlights from RWC 2023. Anywhere. Anytime. All for free!

Join us

Botia, the recent back-to-back Heineken Champions Cup winner with La Rochelle, didn’t play that August 26 afternoon in London against the English but he has gone on to impress at the World Cup, starting at openside in his team’s games versus Australia, Georgia and Portugal after an opening weekend appearance off the bench against Wales.

England back-rower Billy Vunipola saw first-hand the menace wielded by Botia just last April as he was pivotal when dominating the breakdown in their European win over Saracens. “The best thing about him is his technique,” reckoned the No8.


“He has got a very low centre of gravity and obviously his speed. I don’t think he plays 12 anymore but as a 12 who is now repositioned to seven, he is very fast about making the decision on whether to go for the ball or not.

“Just again, his height, if you give him an opportunity it becomes tough. But it is not just him, they have got other threats in terms of jackallers.


“They have (Josua) Tuisova, their nine [Frank Lomani] loves a dabble and there are other players in and around their team that if the opportunity arises, if we are off in terms of our breakdown, they the big threats around the breakdown not just this weekend but in world rugby.”

So good is Botia that England assistant coach Richard Wigglesworth admitted it would be hard for them to have just one single player replicating on the training ground this week exactly how the Fijian plays. “Even if we got someone to do his role he might not be quite as effective as him,” he said.

“To be honest we have done that from the third or fourth week of pre-season. You had to prep for (Julian) Montoya versus Argentina, you had to prep for (Tommy) Reffell and (Jac) Morgan for Wales before that. We’ve had guys who on a non-physical day are just trying to touch the ball, just trying to get in there so that you are on red alert.

“There is not just knowing about the threat, there is all the shape stuff and where you have got to be and where you want to be and how quickly you react to different situations and structured stuff that Botia is a threat on. But then there is the unstructured, the kicking game where a ball bounces and suddenly he is there so it’s how alert we are on the back of it.


“But to answer your question, there are definitely going to be people that are sticking their head in but we tend to do it in a much more respectful part in training. It’s more about the speed and we’ll use the intent and the physicality more on bags or in controlled situations… No one has got that job of getting filled for seven days.”

Wigglesworth added that the breakdown will be crucial to the outcome of Sunday’s result. “We need the breakdown to be as clean as we can. we know Fiji is exceptional in that area,” he continued on Tuesday in Aix-en-Provence ahead of a Marseille knockout game that will be refereed by Mathieu Raynal of France.

“To be perfectly honest you will learn something different every game because they all referee it slightly differently because that is human nature, it is going to be slightly different. You want guys to get out of that tackle zone before you can compete.

“Fiji will tend to just compete and then work it out from there, slowing it down or taking it off you. That is going to be a huge area of the game that we need to be the best that we have been because it’s definitely a super strength of theirs.”



Join free

Fresh Starts | Episode 1 | Will Skelton


Aotearoa Rugby Podcast | Episode 8

James Cook | The Big Jim Show | Full Episode

New Zealand victorious in TENSE final | Cathay/HSBC Sevens Day Three Men's Highlights

New Zealand crowned BACK-TO-BACK champions | Cathay/HSBC Sevens Day Three Women's Highlights

Japan Rugby League One | Steelers v Sungoliath | Full Match Replay

Rugby Europe Women's Championship | Netherlands v Spain

Trending on RugbyPass


Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

TRENDING Why Ireland has two unofficial world titles and South Africa has none Why Ireland has two unofficial world titles