Fiji claim historic victory over England as Twickenham stunned

Waisea Nayacalevu congratulated after his try for Fiji. Credit: Alamy
Waisea Nayacalevu congratulated after his try for Fiji. Credit: Alamy

Fiji secured a stunning first-ever victory over England in their Rugby World Cup warm-up fixture at Twickenham as the Red Rose sunk to a new low.

The visitors created history at the home of English rugby on Saturday as Steve Borthwick’s men fell to a 30-22 loss in front of a disappointed home crowd.

Waisea Nayacalevu, Vinaya Habosi and Simione Kuruvoli got Fiji’s tries, while Caleb Muntz kicked 15 points via three conversions and three penalty goals.

Jonny May, Marcus Smith and Joe Marchant went over for England, but the hosts came up short in another big setback ahead of their World Cup campaign.

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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.

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.

Borthwick had said the listlessness seen in the 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.

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.

But the rest of the first-half belonged to Fiji, and once their first attack had unfolded amid a downpour, 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 allow 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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