With just eight days to go until England raise the curtain on the 2021 Rugby League World Cup (2022) when they take on Samoa, Shaun Wane took his only opportunity to play an international test match against Fiji at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford.
George Williams was handed the England captaincy with World Cup skipper Sam Tomkins not asked to take part in this warm-up game as the coach looked to test out some of his options before the full-on battle commences.
England, ranked third in the World, were clear favourites with the bookies and given an eighteen-point handicap on the coupon against a Fiji side who are officially ranked as sixth in the World. England had nine on the bench, Samoa had seven.
England made good ground early in the game but gifted possession to Fiji when they closed in on the line. Fiji themselves were struggling to grab any land, playing their sets in their own half.
England finally got rewards for their efforts on fourteen when Dom Young was the last man in a passing move to the right hands side to take the Jack Welsby pass and tumble over in the corner. Marc Sneyd was unable to add the extras two from the touchline.
Andy Ackers was the second England man to score a debut try as he was alive to the Luke Thompson offload to collect the ball, drop the shoulder, and stretch for the line. This time Sneyd was accurate with the boot for 10-0.
As Wane rang the changes England went on the attack again and a great inside pass from Young found Kallum Watkins to over from three metres out. Sneyd smashed his touchline conversion between the uprights for 16-0, the Salford lads filling their boots on their home ground.
On thirty-five, returning the kick-off, Young broke the Fiji line and went downfield before passing to the supporting George Williams to score from forty metres out. Sneyd added a third goal of the half for 22-0.
A minute from the interval Joe Batchelor took a Sneyd chip to the left corner as the Fiji defence failed to deal with the ball for a gift of a try. Sneyd slotted over the extras and after a slow start England had a 28-0 interval lead.
The heavens opened as the sides emerged for the second half.
Five minutes after the restart Luke Thompson scored under the sticks as he collected a Sneyd grubber for an easy try. Sneyd added the conversion for 34-0.
It was ll far too easy for England when on forty-eight minutes Mike McMeeken took the ball from the dummy half and span out of a tackle to ground from three metres out. Sneyd again added the conversion to bring up the forty.
On fifty-four Mike Cooper kept his arm off the floor in the tackle on the Fiji line and when the defenders thought that they´d completed he stretched for the line and grounded. Sneyd was again accurate with the boot for 46-0.
As Wane made more changes the tries dried up as England tried to re-adjust.
On seventy-three Ryan Hall became the ninth England scorer as he stooped to take a dipping pass, regaining his stature to go on by the left corner flag for the half century. Harry Smith had taken over the kicking duties but was unable to add the additional two.
While it was a big win, over the side who are sixth favourites to win the World Cup, Shaun Wane will still feel that there are areas for improvement. Some of his fringe players did themselves no harm in laying claim for starting spots. It was a decent run out, but the opposition had little to offer, and who will be embarrassed to have been so comprehensively demolished. We can now look ahead to the game a week tomorrow, against what will likely be much sterner opposition in Samoa.
England: Welsby, Young (T), Watkins (T), Farnworth, Hall (T), Williams (T), Sneyd (7G), Hill, Ackers (T), Cooper (T), Whitehead, McMeeken (T), Radley. Subs: Marshall, Powell, Thompson (T), Burgess, McIlorum, Batchelor (T), Smith, Wardle, Kai-Pearce.
Fiji: Naiqama, Qareqare, Ravalawa, Valemei, Vulikijapani, Moceidreke, Wakeham, Vuniyayawa, Tagiyuimua, Kamikamica, Miller, Maisamoa-Seci, Liolevave. Subs: Masima, Lumelume, Sadrugu, Ratu-Vakacereivalu, Nakubuwai, Taira, Wong.
Score Progression: 4-0, 8-0, 10-0, 14-0, 16-0, 20-0, 22-0, 26-0, 28-0 : HT : 32-0, 34-0, 38-0, 40-0, 44-0, 46-0, 50-0 : FT .
Lead Exchanges: England.
Referee: Jack Smith.