England got their Rugby World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a bonus-point victory against Tonga. Here's all you need to know about the Pool C contest in Sapporo


2019 Rugby World Cup: England 35-3 Tonga


Played – 3

England wins – 3

Tonga wins – 0

Did You Know?

  • England’s victory maintained their 100% record in World Cup Tests played under a closed roof. They have now played 14 Tests under cover and have a won 7, lost 7 record.
  • Luke Cowan-Dickie’s try, which secured England the bonus point, was the 2,000th try scored in World Cup history.
  • Manu Tuilagi became the first foreign-born player to score two tries in an England World Cup match since Shontayne Hape in 2011 (against Georgia).
  • Gloucester scrum-half Willi Heinz, England’s oldest squad member, made his World Cup debut at the age of 32.

Related: Rugby World Cup Fixtures

England v Samoa, coin toss

Let’s get started: the two captains, Siale Piutau and Owen Farrell, at the coin toss (World Rugby/Getty)

In a nutshell

England opened their World Cup account with a bonus-point win over Tonga, the crucial fourth try coming just four minutes from time when Luke Cowan-Dickie was put in by fellow replacement Jonathan Joseph.

It followed centre Manu Tuilagi’s first-half double and a score by hooker Jamie George from a driving maul shortly before the hour. Skipper Owen Farrell kicked three conversions to go with a trio of penalties, finishing with 15 points.

It represented a satisfactory day’s work for Eddie Jones’s squad, the head coach able to empty the bench early ahead of their next match against USA on Thursday. Centre Henry Slade, playing his first Test since March following a knee injury, had a momentary injury scare but happily emerged unscathed during his 30 minutes.

England’s defence dealt with the relatively few questions posed of it, with Maro Itoje at the heart of their efforts once again. They join Ireland as one of the tournament heavyweights who kept their line intact over the opening weekend.

However, familiar problems surfaced in the form of a high penalty concession, particularly at the breakdown, and the handling errors also reached double figures. One butchered try, when Slade and Elliot Daly had a two-on-one, made especially ugly viewing.

Tonga were a far cry from the side thrashed 92-7 by New Zealand in a warm-up, playing with greater structure and control and slowing the tempo when possible. They won a couple of scrum penalties, something that may give England food for thought.

There were a number of high tackles in the match but none warranting serious sanction. New Zealand referee Paul Williams deserves credit for his handling of those incidents – notably a hit by Sione Kalamafoni on Anthony Watson – during a time when that area of the game is attracting enormous scrutiny.

Star man

Manu Tuilagi had a great day at the office, bulldozing through Cooper Vuna for the opening try on 23 minutes and then running a good support line to take Jonny May’s pass on the half-hour. He was named the official Man of the Match.

But our star man is Saracens lock Maro Itoje, who called the lineouts with George Kruis starting on the bench. His defensive work in that set-piece was outstanding, sometimes ripping the ball off Tonga as they landed, and he showed his poacher’s instincts at the breakdown. His work at the maul was exemplary and once again he demonstrated why he’s regarded as one of the world’s best players.

Maro Itoje wins a lineout v Tonga

Prize Maro: England second-row Maro Itoje soars high to win lineout ball in Sapporo (Getty Images)

Related: Rugby World Cup TV Coverage

The Reaction

England coach Eddie Jones: “We weren’t sharp enough but we’ve a few more games to go before we have to be really sharp. That’s rugby, some days it flows and some days it doesn’t. We dropped a couple of balls that we normally wouldn’t that would have resulted in tries, but we got five points and that’s what we came here for.

“And the other thing I really like is that we haven’t conceded a try in the last two Tests. That’s a good sign of where your team is in terms of attitude. I thought today the players really applied themselves well. We didn’t execute well but as I say, that’s rugby.

“It was a bit like playing against Stoke City; the ball went out a lot, there was a slow pace to the game, maybe that was the intention [of Tonga]. But you just have to get on with it. You only need four tries in 80 minutes [to get the bonus point] and we got them.

“Henry Slade is good, he just needed a bit of extra strapping. He’s like one of those racehorses, you’ve got to put a bit of extra strapping on sometimes.”

On gaining inspiration from ex-Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson: “We were lucky enough to have Sir Alex Ferguson in, and he was renowned for ‘Fergie time’, and the message was to be patient. And that’s what I liked about our team today, we keep on and it came in the end, and that’s the sign of a good team.”

Anthony Watson v Tonga

Afterburners: Anthony Watson showed up well on the wing during a ragged England performance (Getty)

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu: “England are a good team, they squeezed us in the first half and we couldn’t get into their 30 to throw any punches.

“We need to keep chipping away at our core skills under pressure. We’re getting better but there are some opportunities we’re not taking advantage of. We stayed in the game really well, they just got away from us in the second half.”

“I saw Eddie (Jones) after the game and said it was one-all now (Kefu coached Tonga to victory over Japan when Jones was in charge of them).”

On Nasi Manu coming on after recovering from treatment on testicular cancer last year: “It’s been an emotional week for Nasi. We tried to lighten his load in terms of media and sponsorship commitments but we all knew this was important for him.

Tonga's Nasi Manu v England

Emotional week: Tonga back-row Nasi Manu returned following his cancer treatment (Getty Images)

“I just had a chat with him and he said he was bloody tired and needs more game time, his lungs were gone. I reassured him and said ‘you’re lucky to be on the field’ and knowing him, he is a bloody competitive person and a bloody good player.”

Tonga captain Siale Piutau: “We wanted to bring physicality and we brought it, but our discipline let us down in the last quarter and when we did get in their territory we didn’t get to throw any punches. But there were a lot of positives and learnings to take into the game next week with Argentina.”

The Teams

England: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (capt), Jonny May (Henry Slade 52); George Ford (Jonathan Joseph 67), Ben Youngs (Willi Heinz 55); Joe Marler (Ellis Genge 49), Jamie George (Luke Cowan-Dickie 58), Kyle Sinckler (Dan Cole 58), Courtney Lawes (George Kruis 55), Maro Itoje, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill (Lewis Ludlam 54), Billy Vunipola.

Tries: Tuilagi 2 (23, 30), George (56), Cowan-Dickie (76). Cons: Farrell 3. Pens: Farrell 3.

Tonga: David Halaifonua; Atieli Pakalani (NafI Tuitavake ht), Siale Piutau (capt), Cooper Vuna, Viliami Lolohea; Kurt Morath (James Faiva 49), Sonatane Takulua (Leon Fukofuka 60); Siegfried Fisiihoi (Latu Talakai 62), Sosefo Sakalia (Siua Maile 60), Ben Tameifuna (Ma’afu Fia 49), Sam Lousi, Leva Fifita (Dan Faleafa 73), Sione Kalamafoni, Zane Kapeli, Ma’ama Vaipulu (Nasi Manu 58).

Pen: Takulua.

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