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Hapless England hit low ebb in loss to Fiji


England’s dismal build-up to the World Cup reached its lowest ebb as they collapsed to their first defeat to a current tier-two nation by losing 30-22 to Fiji at Twickenham.


Jonny May raced over to seize an early lead but what followed will have shaken head coach Steve Borthwick as England were outplayed by a side they had dispatched in all seven previous meetings.

Waisea Nayacalevu and Vinaya Habosi touched down to propel Fiji in front and, although tries by Marcus Smith and Joe Marchant hinted that a seismic upset might be avoided, the Islanders had other ideas.

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The leaky home defence cracked one final time in the 73rd minute, with Simione Kuruvoli delivering the decisive blow to wrap up a historic victory that will create shockwaves ahead of the World Cup.

Wales and Australia will be eyeing their clashes with their Pool D rivals nervously having seen what what unfolded in front of a disappointing crowd of 56,854 at Twickenham.

It was England’s fifth defeat in six matches and was a dismal World Cup send-off that adds to the tension surrounding their pivotal opening game against Argentina on September 9.

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No-one will have felt the disappointment more than captain Courtney Lawes, who was making his 100th appearance on a day that is expected to see England drop beneath Fiji in the global rankings.


Steve Borthwick had said the listlessness seen in previous three warm-up matches was a result of being in the midst of a conditioning block and that they would benefit when the load was reduced.

The pressure continues to mount on England head coach Steve Borthwick (David Davies/PA)As they made the brightest start of their four warm-up games, they certainly looked like a side with fresh purpose – Manu Tuilagi making early dents, George Ford fizzing a pass to Ollie Lawrence and May supplying the determined kick-chase that had been missing in Dublin.

May quickly decorated his international comeback with a first try since November 2021 in the left corner after Alex Mitchell and Ford found the veteran Gloucester wing with sharp distribution from a scrum.

It was the first try scored by an England back in 261 minutes and it began to look like Borthwick’s team were emerging from their long spell of underachievement.


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But the rest of the first-half belonged to Fiji and once their first attack had unfolded amid a downpour, Caleb Muntz landed a penalty.

The heavy rain had stopped and, while handling was still treacherous, the well-organised Islanders continued to probe for openings that almost produced a dynamic try for Nayacalevu that was ruled out for a marginal forward pass.

Under-pressure England wrestled back the ball and were only denied in the right corner by a try-saving tackle on Max Malins that took place in the moments after prop Eroni Mawi committed a yellow card breakdown offence.

With Mawi still in the sin-bin, Fiji ran in their first try with a little help from weak tackles by May and Freddie Steward on Selestino Ravutaumada that enabled Nayacalevu to cross at the end of a slickly-orchestrated attack.

A brief England assault followed but once this subsided they paid the price for Ben Earl switching off around the ruck to allowed Habosi to dart clear and race over the line.

Smith touched down a Ford chip as tension mounted at Twickenham but with Muntz landing another penalty they still trailed, although there was evidence they had found a second wind.

That was confirmed when Joe Marchant capitalised on the space down the right but when Danny Care dropped the restart they were back under the cosh and the ruthless Fijians pounced through Kuruvoli to claim a famous win.



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Anthony 293 days ago

Now the dust has settled .
We all agree this is very bad.
The players have followed awful tactics.
We are not powerful enough to bully at present. So alter the way we play NOW.
Not too late to run with the ball. Mitchell ,Smith . Marchant Slade . Yes Malins . Brilliant ball player given the chance . Etc
These guys have not turned into rubbish overnight . The tactics are all wrong for a relatively lightweight team . Borthwick is the problem .
Get ford out of there , all talk and no trousers . . Goes awol when it matters
Look at the reviews. Not enough leadership. So where is Ford again .
He is a senior player . Apparently .
Smith has turned games on their heads so give him the chance with proper players around him to compliment his skills and not plodders.
Try Mercer , Dombrant Merchant etc , and we will at least give it a go .
Playing not to lose will not cut it anymore
Are you listening Steve .

bob 294 days ago

Too many overpaid prima donnas in that tight 5.
Are the Sale boys - du Preese brothers and van Der Merwe not eligible for England yet.

Johnny 294 days ago

Well done Fiji ! Passion and flair can often beat regimented coaching.

Sumkunn Tsadmiova 294 days ago

Caleb Muntz. You wouldn't want a spoonerism there....

GrahamVF 294 days ago

Common guys - let's talk rugby. It was a fascinating and enthralling rugby test between the top two second tier teams.

Bob Marler 295 days ago

Let’s just accept that the English peaked against NZ in 2019. Neither team has been the same since.

Andy 295 days ago

Only words to describe England's current way of playing and the coaching staff are responsible for it
Clueless, hopeless, hapless witless and downright bloody useless.

Anthony 295 days ago

It is obvious to anyone watching the prem that these players are not this bad. Ford excepted .
He wilts under pressure and dissapears in big games. When will people stop saying he is great in organising the back line. What evidence is there.
Borthwick is playing prem tactics at world level and he has shown he has no idea how to coach an attacking side . Kick , kick will not work .
Its too late now and we should rip up this team and let the ball players loose. Mitchell , smith , slade marchant malins and radwan with steward full back . And any forward who hold the bloody ball in and slows it down doesnt play again . EVER.
This has to be the low point , start again . NOW

Mark 295 days ago

Fair play to fiji, worthy winners.
The oddest and most worrying aspect of Englands display was the lack of energy and intensity, particularly in defence but also in general play.
Their seemed nobody capable of showing the onfield leadership & nous to rouse the team from its stupor.

Robbie 295 days ago

Abject display of incompetence from the players and coaching team. England panicked fired Eddie and employed a coach who is completely out of his depth. Fire the whole coaching team.

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