Rugby: England hammer Fiji with record win

Fiji's Deacon Manu tackles England's Thomas Waldrom (R) during their rugby test at Twickenham Stadium in London. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
Fiji's Deacon Manu tackles England's Thomas Waldrom (R) during their rugby test at Twickenham Stadium in London. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
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 them.

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 10 minutes.

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 squeezing over.

COMPLETELY OUTGUNNED

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 tackles.

Seko Kalou squeezed over to have the last word with a try for Fiji but most of the 82,000 fans went home happy.