Analysis – England can tweak at leisure with bonus point in bag

A sharp opening 25 minutes and a determined last 15 sandwiched a wayward middle, but the management and squad were all delighted to finish with a four-try, 35-11 victory that secured the potentially vital bonus point in the opening game of the toughest World Cup pool ever assembled.


Coach Stuart Lancaster, while delighted to lay down a marker by seeing the hosts top the table with five points, was quick to accept that there were plenty of areas to work on.

“I thought we gave away a few too many penalties,” he said.

“Fiji came hard at the breakdown, they made it very difficult for us. They have a team of big physical men across the board and we have to look at our decision-making there.

“After we started well we needed to be more direct and so there are things to work on, obviously”.

Although England knew they were going to face some thunderous hits from the big Fijians they looked a little confused to find their rivals holding their own in the scrum and causing mayhem at the breakdown.

Rather than trusting their pack to eventually wear down their rivals, the go-to tactic that has served them so well in most of their best performances in recent years, England looked impatient to get the ball wide.

It made for an open, exciting spectacle as the dropped balls and turnovers kept everyone on their toes but the approach made few inroads as the second half ticked by.

Only when Lancaster virtually emptied his bench around the hour mark was there a notable change, with Billy and Mako Vunipola making immediate and direct progress, the team finally building multiple phases that finally had the islanders running out of steam and leaving holes.

Mike Brown took advantage when he forced his way over for his second try to set up a tingling last few minutes as England pounded away in search of the all-important fourth try.

Billy Vunipola got it, driving determinedly through three tacklers to just reach the line — although the TMO needed three minutes before confirming he had made it.

“Some of the guys from the bench really put their hands up and we have some big decisions for next week against Wales,” said Lancaster, who has eight days to recalibrate his players before facing their neighbours back at Twickenham.

“With Billy, I could see the look in his eyes and when he’s in that mood he’s a difficult man to stop.”

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)