Fiji's Deacon Manu tackles England's Thomas Waldrom (R)
during their rugby test at Twickenham Stadium in London.
England overcame a rusty start to sweep past Fiji 54-12
in the first of their four Twickenham internationals as Stuart
Lancaster's fledgling side ran in seven tries for a record
victory against the outclassed islanders.
Two tries each for winger Charlie Sharples and centre Manu
Tuilagi plus scores for Ugo Monye, Tom Johnson and a penalty
try were a fair reflection of England's dominance although,
with their most inexperienced lineup for years, they took a
while to settle.
Far tougher tests come over the next three weeks with games
against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand but England
will go into those matches much the better for this workout
against a Fiji side who tired badly and offered virtually no
resistance in the set piece and were punished by 17-point
goalkicker Toby Flood for their regular indiscretions.
Coach Stuart Lancaster will be delighted by the contribution
of many of his new boys. Debutant hooker Tom Youngs had a
great game, as did Sharples, man of the match fullback Alex
Goode and flanker Johnson, with a total of 10 caps between
Prop Mako Vunipola and lock Joe Launchbury also came off the
bench to make their international debuts as England chalked
up their fifth win from five games against Fiji and surpassed
their previous record margin against them, the 58-23 victory
at Twickenham in 1989.
"I'll take the positives, though there were some rusty areas
we need to fix for next week," said Lancaster.
"We'll have to be far more clinical next week and the weeks
after that but for a first hit out we'll take it. We're going
to have to go up several gears, it's going to be tough."
It was tough at the start on Saturday as, in the face of a
furious Fiji onslaught, England struggled early on and lost
scrumhalf Danny Care to the sin-bin for a spear tackle after
Flanker Api Naikatini was almost through moments later and
barreling number eight Akapusi Qera spilled the ball with the
line gaping. However, two terrible penalty attempts by
Metuisela Talebula meant they had nothing to show for almost
20 minutes of dominance.
Instead England's first three meaningful attacks produced 13
points with two Flood penalties and a first international try
for Sharples, who spun inside through two tackles before
Fiji captain and key prop Deacon Manu was then sin-binned
after a series of offsides as the visitors struggled to keep
England at bay. In his absence their scrum, already
completely outgunned, crumbled and gave away a penalty try.
Winger Monye, in his first appearance for more than two
years, made it 25-0 at halftime when he walked in after a
quick tap from livewire Goode, who was superb.
It was pretty much one-way traffic in the second half, though
scrumhalf Nikola Matawalu scored a typically adventurous
60-metre kick and chase try after 53 minutes.
England showed good patience in their build-up when they
could easily have rushed things with their glut of possession
though they did waste several good opportunities - something
they will need to fix in a hurry.
Flanker Johnson and Sharples finished off good moves before
Ben Youngs came on to replace Care at scrumhalf, joining his
brother on a memorable day for the family with proud dad and
former England number nine Nick watching from the stands.
Tuilagi showed great strength to squeeze in for another try
after 70 minutes as the holes got bigger in the tiring Fiji
defence then added a second as he broke through two weak
Seko Kalou squeezed over to have the last word with a try for
Fiji but most of the 82,000 fans went home happy.