By Owain Jones, Rugby World Editor
In a nutshell
England performed a satisfactory, if perfunctory job on an underprepared and underpowered Fiji side. The hosts got off to a sluggish start, failing to find the necessary momentum to hurt the Fijians, but after the break, England improved, and started to go through the phases to exploit gaps in the Fijian’s defence. This led to a braces from both Charlie Sharples and Manu Tuilagi, while Tom Johnson scored a debut try and Ugo Monye crossed the whitewash from a short distance. England finished convincingly, well aware tougher battles would lie ahead.
Danny Care out of the sin bin and restored to the backline started a neat move from the base of the ruck, and slick English hands from Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Alex Goode saw England make headway on the right. Charlie Sharples was fed the ball far out on the touchline. He looked up, showed quick feet and danced inside three Fijian defenders to wriggle and squirm his way over the tryline. It was a moment of individual brilliance that break the visitors resolve and gave England that all-important daylight.
Star man: Charlie Sharples
It was seen as a straight shoot-out between Charlie Sharples and Ugo Monye for a wing berth once finisher-in-chief Chris Ashton came back into the side, after a one-match suspension. Both players scored but it was Sharples who retained his spot. The Gloucester Wing, showcased particularly with his first try, his inventiveness and mental attitude to ‘give it a go’ to score. His second try was easier, with a neat step from a short distance but showed his predatory instincts. Sharples took his opportunity and it paid off. Honourable mentions must go to the classy Alex Goode and assured Tom Youngs, who made his England debut.
Room for improvement:
The Fijians were patently under-prepared and underpowered to take on a well-drilled England side. That was no surprise, yet Stuart Lancaster will be concerned by England’s sluggish start where they looked rusty and failing to gain momentum. If we’re being harsh, Thomas Waldrom didn’t look to answer to England’s No 8 berth and Danny Care, in an otherwise snappy performance, will be frustrated to have been sin-binned, albeit harshly for a borderline tip-tackle. Against more clinical opposition, England will be punished. They also butchered try scoring opportunities, which will need to improve against the SANZAR triumvirate.
In quotes – winners
England coach, Stuart Lancaster: “We were delighted to get the win, we struggled to get foothold early on but the scrum was good and I was particularly delighted for Tom Youngs on his debut. Even though we didn’t convert every opportunity we showed some good shape and intent in attack but we realize we’ll need to step up a few levels next week.
In quotes – losers
Fiji coach, Inoke Male: “The Fijian players are more dangerous when they have the ball in hand. We didn’t have that today and I think that’s why we lost the game.”
England ran 603 metres with the ball compared to 262 metres from Fiji
Fiji made 105 tackles, missing 19, a conversion rate of 84.7% while England made 74 and missed 11 with an 87.1% conversion rate
Manu Tuilagi was England’s top ball carrier with 96 metres
Chris Robshaw was the only England player to get into double-figures with 12 tackles
Match highlights: http://bbc.in/Z5lzyB
England: Alex Goode, Charlie Sharples, Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Ugo Monye (Mike Brown, 59), Toby Flood (Owen Farrrell, 59), Danny Care (Ben Youngs, 58); Joe Marler (Mako Vunipola, 46), Tom Youngs (David Paice 65), Dan Cole (Dave Wilson, 58), Geoff Parling, Tom Palmer (Joe Launchbury, 50), Tom Johnson (Tom Wood, 59), Chris Robshaw (c), Thomas Waldron
Tries: Manu Tuilagi (2), Charlie Sharples (2), Tom Johnson, Ugo Monye, Penalty Try
Pens: Flood (3). Cons: Flood (4), Farrell
Sin Bin: Care (10)
Fiji: Simeli Koniferedi (Josh Matavesi, 40), Samu Wara (Ravai Fatiaki, 67), Vereniki Goneva, Sireli Naqelevuki, Watisoni Votu, Metuisela Talebula, Nicola Matawalu; Ratu Makutu, Viliame Veikoso (Seremaia Naureure, 47) Deacon Manu (c (Manasa Saulo 67), Leone Nakawara, Apisolame Ratuniyarawa (Sekonaia Kalou 73), Api Naikatani (Iliesa Ratuva 52), Malaki Ravulo, Akapusi Qera.
Replacements (not used): Setafano Samoca, Kelemedi Bola
Tries: Matawalu, Kalou Qaraniqio
Sin Bin: Manu (29)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)