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Seven-try England overpower Fiji

LONDON (AFP) –

England full-back Alex Goode (C) tries to get a pass away as he gets tackled by Fiji's Sireli Naqelevuki

England full-back Alex Goode (C) is tackled by Fiji’s Sireli Naqelevuki during the international rugby union match at Twickenham Stadium, southwest of London, England. England launched their European autumn series with a commanding 54-12 win over Fiji.

England launched their European autumn series with a commanding 54-12 win over Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.

Stuart Lancaster’s men outscored Fiji seven tries to two and the match was over as a contest at half-time with England 25-0 up.

England’s fifth win in as many Tests against Fiji, battling to overcome issues of player release for this tour, was also their record margin of victory over the Pacific Islanders, surpassing the 35-point gap they recorded in a 58-23 success at Twickenham in 1989.

Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples scored his first two tries for England, who also saw Harlequins wing Ugo Monye and blindside flanker Tom Johnson touch down in a tally that included a penalty try and two late scores by Manu Tuilagi.

Outside-half Toby Flood kicked 17 points.

Fiji avoided the embarrassment of being ‘nilled’ when scrum-half Nikola Matawalu scored a fine solo try in the 54th minute with replacement Seko Kalou crossing in the final minute.

England's Manusamoa Tuilagi prepares to pass the ball

England’s Manusamoa Tuilagi prepares to pass the ball against Fiji during their international rugby union match at Twickenham Stadium, southwest of London, England. England won the game 54-12.

Sterner challenges will confront England when southern hemisphere giants Australia (November 17), South Africa (November 24) and world champions New Zealand (December 1) all visit Twickenham on successive weekends.

If England maintain their top four position in the International Rugby Board rankings, the 2015 World Cup hosts will be among the top seeds when the pool stage draw for the global showpiece takes place next month.

England, with several players boasting just a handful of caps each, grew in confidence after a sloppy start and captain Chris Robshaw admitted: “We were pretty slow coming out of the blocks today. We eventually warmed into the game but we cannot do that over the next three weeks.”

Fiji’s task was not helped by their inability to field their best team and coach Inoke Male told reporters: “We lost some of the boys during the week, some of them were not released by their clubs (as they should have been under International Rugby Board regulations).”

This was Fiji’s first Test against England in 13 years and Male added: “Unfortunately, we haven’t got the luxury of having players together for two weeks, like England; we had three days together.”

England's Captain Chris Robshaw (L) runs with the ball in front of Fiji's Josh Matavesi

England’s Captain Chris Robshaw (L) runs with the ball in front of Fiji’s Josh Matavesi during their international rugby union match at Twickenham Stadium, southwest of London, England. England won the game 54-12.

But it was England, initially trying to play too much rugby without first securing forward dominance, who were reduced to 14 men in the 10th minute.

Scrum-half Danny Care was sin-binned by Test debutant referee Glen Jackson, acting on the advice of an assistant, for a dangerous tackle on Fiji lock Leone Nakarawa.

Fiji’s failure to make England pay for being a man down was compounded when Care returned to help create the hosts’ first try in the 22nd minute.

Care made a half-break and the ball was moved quickly along the line before full-back Alex Goode fed Sharples, in for the suspended Chris Ashton, and he evaded several poor attempted tackles for his first Test try.

Flood added the conversion before his penalty made it 13-0.

Fiji then fell foul of Jackson when captain Deacon Manu was sin-binned for persistent offside.

In the prop’s absence, Fiji conceded a penalty try from a scrum — a moment to savour for debutant England hooker Tom Youngs — in the 36th minute and worse followed for the Islanders on the stroke of half-time.

England's scrum half Danny Care (2nd L) gets tackled by Fiji's Nikola Matawalu (L) and Metuisela Talebula

England’s scrum half Danny Care (2nd L) gets tackled by Fiji’s Nikola Matawalu (L) and Metuisela Talebuladuring the international rugby union match at Twickenham Stadium, southwest of London, England. England won the game 54-12.

England caught Fiji napping when Goode’s quickly-taken penalty sent Monye over in the left corner.

Early in the second half, Flood and Goode combined before Robshaw sent in Johnson for his fellow back-row’s first Test try.

Fiji hit back with a superb solo effort from Glasgow’s Matawalu, who intercepted a pass from Monye, beat Tuilagi and won the race to his own chip ahead.

England, though, soon had another try when Flood’s pass sent in Sharples.

Among the replacements Ben Youngs, Tom’s brother, came on for Care.

The sons of former England scrum-half Nick Youngs became the 10th set of brothers to play in the same England side and the first since Steffon and Delon Armitage in 2009.

Then, inside the final 10 minutes, powerful Tuilagi bolstered England’s victory margin with two tries before Kalou had the last word.

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