OK, so England beat Fiji on muscle-memory, as predicted. But overall, I'm more optimistic than I would have expected to be at this stage. Partly, that's because England have a history of building to the later stages of the RWC rather uncertainly (2007 etc, and even including 2003): but mainly because, notwithstanding 2019, South Africa isn't a bogey team for England. Let me explain.
In a given period of time, most teams seem to have a semi-irrational bogey. For years, France couldn't get past England in any competition whatsoever. Australia often seem to freeze against England. And France themselves have lately done the job on England. (England would also fancy New Zealand rather than they would have Ireland ... but let's not, *ahem*, get ahead of ourselves.)
So - back to Saturday last: what did we witness last week?
Farrell: for about 10 minutes towards the end, Farrell more-or-less earned his pay - at long last. (Right up until his crazy knock-on right near the end, which might easily have seen him in the bin at the very death.) That's a pretty thin return on the many years of undeserved England pay he's drawn. We'll never know whether Ford + a different captain could have done the same job over that 10 minutes: but then again, the alternative combo might well have closed Fiji down even earlier. Counterfactuals are like that. So I'm unrepentant: Farrell shouldn't have played.
Smith: well, he didn't pick himself at 15, and he gave it everything he'd got. But, as they say, a good big'un ... Anyhow, it's irrelevant now; and tomorrow, Steward it will rightfully be.
Tuilagi: we've all heard the tired old saying, uttered continually over more than a decade - "if Manu's fit, he's in". Well, by some miracle he's managed to stay fit. But how many more times is it deemed satisfactory that he storms into a match and grabs a dynamic early try, then fades into the background? If that's his MO, take him off after 30 minutes.
Lawes: how many more times can he be expected to go to the well and draw performances like that? Unless he has truly superhuman powers of recovery, I don't like to imagine the shape he'll be in after Saturday - whatever duties might be sought of him beyond that point.
Earl: speaking of super-human ...
Footnote: apologies for the garbled early draft of this post for those who encountered it.