England continued to steamroll their way through an undefeated 2016 with a 58-15 demolition of Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.
Two try doubles from Semesa Rokduguni, Jonathan Joseph and Joe Launchbury helped guide England to a comfortable win while Wasps centre Elliot Daly, Northampton flanker Teimana Harrison and Saracens fullback Alex Goode also crossed over for their first international tries.
England were never really pushed out of third gear on the day, and while the match transpired exactly how everyone had predicted, the game still produced its share of winners and losers.
Rokoduguni was sensational for England on Saturday. He bagged two tries, picked up 139 metres on the ground, beat six defenders and broke the Fijian line six times.
He was a constant presence on England’s right wing and was able to bring his sparkling form for Bath in the Aviva Premiership this season into the Novemeber internationals.
The flying Fijian will have put serious pressure on Jonny May and Marland Yarde to be included in next weekend’s Test with Argentina, and it’s hard to see him being overlooked next Saturday given the strength of his performance against Fiji.
Launchbury received his 37th Test Cap for England on Saturday and arguably put in his best performance for the Red Rose with a stellar display in England’s second row.
Launchbury was magnificent for England making a team high 14 tackles as well as notching a brace of tries.
The Wasps lock has been reveling in the absence of Saracens pair Maro Itoje and George Kruis, and he’s been a big bright spot for England during the November internationals.
Kruis and Itoje may still be England, and potentially the world’s best second-row, but Launchbury has shown that he’s more than a viable alternative should England coach Eddie Jones look to break up the Sarries duo and shift Itoje into the backrow.
There were pre-game question marks over Daly’s selection on the wing, given the slew of wingers that Jones has at his disposal, but Daly was brilliant for England on the weekend and had the Fijian defence at sixes and sevens on his spectacular solo try.
Daly was a constant threat for England on the left wing and was able to showcase his full array of attacking talents with a polished performance out wide.
The Wasps centre picked up 93 metres off 11 carries and proved to Jones that he’s more than capable of covering on the wing if called upon.
Was dropped last weekend for the first time since establishing himself as England’s first choice outside centre during the 2015 Six Nations and bounced back in a big way against Fiji.
Opened the scoring for England with a nice finish off the back of some excellent work from Owen Farrell and jumped on a woefully floated cut out ball from Fijian outhalf Josh Matavesi that led to an easy intercept try.
Averaged over eight metres a carry and will be right back in consideration for next Saturday’s test with Argentina at Twickenham.
It’s hard to call someone a loser on a day when they score their first international try but Alex Goode really needed to have a big game if he wanted to displace Mike Brown from the England starting XV.
The 2015/16 Premiership Player of the Year played well in a rare starting opportunity but probably did not do enough to convince Jones that he’s a better choice over Brown at fullback.
With Argentina and Australia up next, and with the Six Nations just around the corner, this may have been Goode’s last chance to show that he deserves to be England’s first-choice fullback.
As good as Semesa Rokoduguni was on Saturday, there was something a bit unnerving about watching Rokoduguni and Nathan Hughes play against their native Fiji.
Rokoduguni may be a former member of the British Army, but he was visibly moved by Fiji’s Cibi and you wondered at that particular moment which jersey he would have preferred wearing.
The match fees received by both England and Fiji players were startling. Fijian players, with the exception of Hughes and Rokoduguni, earned just £400 each for Saturday’s sold-out Test in London while their English counterparts pocketed £22,000 a piece for playing the same game.
Naturally, England are a much, much bigger union than Fiji and can afford to pay their players handsomely for their performances.
But with that said, England certainly aren’t at fault for selecting Rokoduguni or Hughes, as they are well within the rules of current World Rugby laws concerning residency and international eleigibility.
However, it was still a bit disconcerting having to watch two Fijians go up against their own country when they could have desperately used both of them.
After saying all of that, Hughes will be disappointed that he wasn’t able to make more of an impact in the absence of Tom Wood and James Haskell.
Hughes was selected behind Northampton Saints flanker Teimana Harrison, who he replaced on 47 minutes, but the bustling backrower was not able to have the kind of impact he would have liked as England were largely coasting when he got onto the field.
The Wasps backrower has been monumental for Dai Young’s side over the last two years but managed only two runs for 12 metres in 33 minutes of play.
The Lautoka native is capable of much, much more in an England jersey and he’ll be chomping at the bit to show it next weekend against Argentina.
Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole
England had more than enough dominant ball carriers without needing to rely on front rowers Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole to take on some of the work load, but with that said, Kyle Sinckler and Jamie George made more combined metres and carries in less than 30 minutes than Hartley and Cole did in over 50 minutes.
Naturally, the game was a lot more open in the last half hour than it would have been in the opening 30 minutes, but eight combined tackles and three combined runs for three metres is still quite poor, even by front row standards.
The Fijian scrum was never going to seriously challenge England’s set-piece, and Hartley was accurate with his line-outs, but Sinckler and George are pushing and will be given greater consideration in the future if they can replicate their performances against stronger opposition.
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