England vs Tonga LIVE: Rugby result and reaction from 2021 autumn international fixture today

·39-min read
England vs Tonga LIVE: Rugby result and reaction from 2021 autumn international fixture today

England responded to the loss of captain Owen Farrell to a positive Covid test by overwhelming Tonga 69-3 in their Autumn Nations Series opener.

The first 82,000 full house at Twickenham for 20 months because of the coronavirus pandemic noisily celebrated a 11-try rout led by Jonny May, Ben Youngs and Jamie George, who each crossed twice.

Victory was completed despite a disrupted build-up that saw Farrell withdraw as fly-half and captain after testing positive for Covid with confirmation of his absence delivered only 90 minutes before kick-off.

George Furbank was promoted to chief conductor for his fifth cap and a rookie who is more accustomed to playing full-back rose to the occasion by showing several attacking flourishes until he was replaced by Marcus Smith.

The intention had been for Farrell and Smith to form a playmaking axis but Covid and Smith’s leg injury sabotaged that plan and instead the Harlequins prodigy had to wait until the 53rd minute to step off the bench.

Smith entered the fray at a time when England were becoming scruffy in the face of successful Tongan spoiling but his arrival gave Eddie Jones’ men a second wind and he picked a brilliant support line to finish a break by man of the match Henry Slade.

The 22-year-old’s afternoon was marred only when he was elbowed on the floor in the 70th minute by Viliami Fine, who was sent off as a result.

England vs Tonga latest updates

  • England thrash Tonga 69-3 at Twickenham

  • Jonny May, Ben Youngs and Jamie George all score twice

  • First of three autumn internationals for Eddie Jones’ side

  • Captain Owen Farrell missed out after testing positive for Covid


18:28 , Harry Latham-Coyle

That just about does us for this evening’s coverage of England’s win over Tonga. Tougher tests to come, but that was a mighty fine first autumnal outing for Eddie Jones’ side.

Australia are to come next Saturday - will Owen Farrell be available? Jones says that he will be guided by Public Health England, but if he has tested positive again...

We’ll have plenty of reaction and analysis from today’s game over the next few days, but for now, farewell - thank you for joining us.

England overwhelm Tonga with 11-try thrashing at Twickenham

Courtney Lawes reacts to England’s win

18:19 , Harry Latham-Coyle

“I’m really proud to captain England, especially with a group of lads like this. I found out yesterday, but it was still a little bit up in the air.

“I knew from the club that George Furbank would be sweet. He knew what he was doing - I didn’t feel worried about him at all.”

Eddie Jones on England’s leaders and the win

18:14 , Harry Latham-Coyle

“Courtney Lawes’ chase-back tackle was incredible. Ellis Genge followed that up with his almost trademark barnstorming run. Both guys led by example. In terms of the heat of the battle, they weren’t tested, but they both put their best foot forwards.

“We saw the mindset of being aggressive and attacking the opportunities. That is what we have been working on.

“We knew 100% that Owen wouldn’t be involved this morning, so we made the change. George had trained all the way through in the opposition team so he hadn’t had the chance to run with Sladey and Manu as much as we would like. But he has got a lot of common sense and a nice feel for the game.”

Eddie Jones on his fly-halves and more

18:10 , Harry Latham-Coyle

“It was a difficult game for both of those guys because the bulk of the training at fly-half has been done by Owen. They both acquitted themselves well and we are very pleased with their progress.

On Henry Slade: “It is a continuation of what we saw in the summer. He continues in terms of his status in the team and that is reflected in the way he is playing.

“The second half was one of those tricky 40 minutes of rugby when you know the result is no longer in the mix, but we played harder in the second half which is a good sign.

Eddie Jones on Owen Farrell

18:09 , Harry Latham-Coyle

“We are just following the Covid protocols and regulations and awaiting further guidance.

“It is not my decision [on if he is available for Australia].”

Post-match reaction

17:56 , Harry Latham-Coyle

We should have some reaction from England’s coach and captain imminently.

England’s new captain

17:53 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It was also a good day at the office for Courtney Lawes, granted an unexpected opportunity to captain England and seizing it rather well. That tackle on Telusa Veainu was quite something, but Lawes was typically busy with the grunt-work to help lay the foundations. Will Eddie Jones retain that trio in the back row against Australia, who will present very different challenges?

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Options for Eddie Jones

17:41 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Presuming Owen Farrell is ruled out of next Saturday’s clash with Australia, which has still not been confirmed, you would think that Marcus Smith will step straight in with a full week of training behind him. George Furbank did play rather well, though, which may persuade Jones to eschew a call-up for George Ford and go with Furbank as his fly-half backup.

You would be very surprised if the backline changes otherwise, even if Max Malins is fit to return. Everything fitted together rather well today.

17:30 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga disappoint

17:29 , Harry Latham-Coyle

As for the visiting side, that was a mild disappointment, unable to add much to the contest as they tired and were hamstrung by regular ill-discipline. Quite what Viliami Fine was thinking when he elbowed Marcus Smith in the face I’m not sure, but Tonga’s problems had long been apparent before that point, unable to combat England’s attacking game and short of options when the hosts were able to stall their big carriers. They will be disappointed not to have registered more than three points on a day where they did kick, largely, well.

FT: England 69-3 Tonga

17:26 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Plenty for the more than 80,000 fans at Twickenham to cheer as England cut an increasingly out-matched Tonga to ribbons. There are much, much sterner tests to come but Eddie Jones will be heartened by the manner in which England’s backs went about their business in attack, largely very accurate and incisive. Both fly-halves attacked the line, and Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi were excellent. A word, too, for some particularly sharp service from Ben Youngs, afforded quick ball by an efficient performance from England’s pack. Little to complain about for the hosts.


17:23 , Harry Latham-Coyle

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

TRY! ENGLAND 69-3 Tonga (Alex Mitchell try, 80 minutes)

17:22 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It’s a messy old finish but there is no denying Alex Mitchell this time!

Give a hefty amount of credit to Adam Radwan, who has come to life in these final minutes and knocks a tackler out of his shoes with flamenco footwork. His offload is grotesque, tumbling to the floor far beyond Mitchell’s waiting hands, and the replacement scrum-half’s dribbling efforts aren’t much more aesthetically pleasing, but are effective. Three toes ahead with the right boot and beneath the posts he flops as the clock ticks into the red. A final conversion from Marcus Smith and that’ll do it.

TRY! ENGLAND 62-3 Tonga (Jamie Blamire try, 78 minutes)

17:19 , Harry Latham-Coyle

He can’t stop scoring for England! A handful of club starts but England may just have found a gem in Jamie Blamire.

It is Marcus Smith who sets it up, a familiar etching as he dummies and fox-trots through a tired arm tackle, Blamire providing good support and jogging for the line. Smith converts.

England 55-3 Tonga, 77 minutes

17:17 , Harry Latham-Coyle

England play left and right as they seek holes against this Tongan 14. Adam Radwan twice nearly scorches the entire defence himself, and here goes Marcus Smith!

England 55-3 Tonga, 76 minutes

17:16 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga knock-on after their lineout inside the England 22.

NO TRY! England 55-3 Tonga, 75 minutes

17:16 , Harry Latham-Coyle

He was! Cruel for Alex Mitchell, who the ball rather fell to in happenstance after an onside Jamie Blamire had befuddled the Tongan defender by his failure to grasp a bouncing ball.

Try chalked off, penalty to Tonga as Henry Slade is named as the player of the match.

England 55-3 Tonga, 75 minutes

17:14 , Harry Latham-Coyle

England will dry to play the hits now as the rain begins to tumble at Twickenham, Smith sketching, Alex Dombrandt offloading, Henry Slade ever a linking menace.

Adam Radwan sprints to the outside, and his kick falls into the hands of Alex Mitchell, who canters for the score! But was he offside...

TRY! ENGLAND 55-3 Tonga (Marcus Smith try, 73 minutes)

17:13 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Marcus Smith is over! England are beginning to run rampant, playing from their own 22 and scything Tonga open. Henry Slade arcs on a pass from Smith sharply through a hole and is allowed to advance unimpeded some 50 yards or so, waiting, waiting, waiting and releasing his fly-half in an elongated one-two, with Smith able to punch the air and salute the crowd as he sprints untouched for the line. He completes the job from the tee.

TRY! ENGLAND 48-3 Tonga (Jamie George try, 71 minutes)

17:10 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Another meaty mauling and Jamie George has his second! Another simple enough job for George, picking his moment as the line approaches and finding only meek resistances to the left of the tied up forwards. Marcus Smith converts.

England 41-3 Tonga, 70 minutes

17:09 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Fine would have been carded twice there, by the way - the high tackle wasn’t particularly pretty, either. England win another penalty and return to the corner.

RED CARD! Viliami Fine is sent off! England 41-3 Tonga, 69 minutes

17:08 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It is an initial high shot from Viliami Fine, failing to get low enough as his arm connects with Radwan’s jaw. And that isn’t nice at all! At all! After the ruck comes to an end Fine inexplicably decides to throw his elbow into the face of a fallen Marcus Smith! It is a certain red card, and Craig Evans has short shrift for the player, sending him down the tunnel as he produces the red. Tonga will see out the match short a man. A real cheap shot.

England 41-3 Tonga, 68 minutes

17:05 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Marcus Smith gets his baton out and begins to conduct England’s percussive orchestra, using his runners well as England create problems for the Tongan defence. Mark Atkison is chopped down by a sliding no-arms tackle and on the opposite side a looping Adam Radwan is taken high.

In fact, Ben Whitehouse has radioed in from the TMO truck - there is something we need to check. Viliami Fine might have been a little naughty...

England 41-3 Tonga, 67 minutes

17:03 , Harry Latham-Coyle

That will lift Tonga a touch, though. A better effort at the scrum and strong midfield tackling allows Afusipa Taumopeau to limpet over the top of the ball. England seal off - penalty to the Pacific Islanders.

More changes, and debut number two for England. Alex Mitchell replaces Ben Youngs to win his first cap, while Joe Marler gets a big roar as he returns to the international stage for the first time in a while. Will Stuart follows him on, with Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler taking a rest.

England 41-3 Tonga, 65 minutes

17:01 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A free kick against Tonga means it will be an England feed instead, and Craig Evans has cause for further conversation as he penalises Ma’afu Fia. The Tongan tighthead gets a proper talking to and England are all-too-happy to scrum again.

England 41-3 Tonga, 64 minutes

16:59 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Scrum penalty and Ben Youngs is in a hurry, tapping and passing on to Marcus Smith.

It is all a bit higgledy-piggledy, though, broad, hasty brushstrokes as England try to paint into the right corner and eventually held up in an inadvertently formed maul.

England 41-3 Tonga, 63 minutes

16:58 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Oh dear! Finer butchery you cannot find at even the most reputable meatsellers as England squander a virtually certain score. Marcus Smith puts Tom Curry into a hole and Alex Dombrandt will surely power over as he is found by his back-row colleague, but the replacement unselfishly, and foolishly, offloads blindly having heard a teammate’s call, and his pass goes awry.

A ping-pong with the post and the ball eventually comes up in Tongan hands, but as they look to clear a charge-down means England will have opportunity to attack from a five-metre scrum.

England 41-3 Tonga, 62 minutes

16:55 , Harry Latham-Coyle

That is the end of the afternoon for England captain Courtney Lawes, with Charlie Ewels sent for. Tom Curry or Ellis Genge will presumably step up and take over - looks like it may be Curry as England win a penalty and kick onwards into the Tongan half.

TRY! ENGLAND 41-3 Tonga (Jonny May try, 60 minutes)

16:54 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Very nicely done! England feign the maul and allow Tom Curry to leap from the back of it, Ben Youngs pushing wider and used as a ball-handler with Jonny May lurking ominously behind his scrum-half. Youngs fades to the outside, May fills the inside space, and a lunge for the line as he is tackled is sufficient to snare him his second score.

Marcus Smith knocks over the extras.

England 34-3 Tonga, 59 minutes

16:53 , Harry Latham-Coyle

And here is Atkinson, a towering figure, brought down to earth with a bump as Tonga tackle well. Too well, in fact - an over-eager defender had taken a player off the ball and England will kick for the corner.

England 34-3 Tonga, 58 minutes

16:52 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Nearly a seventh for England! More speedy handling allows them to get to the left edge, with Jonny May again allowed a sprint down the left, but he is just about forced out with the line in sight and caught with chalk on his boots as his infield offload is tapped back by Tongan hands.

That prompts some chances - Tonga bring on their replacement front row while it is time for an England debut. Mark Atkinson gets a meaty hug from Manu Tuilagi as he replaces him at inside centre. A very, very good showing from Tuilagi on his return to an England shirt.

England 34-3 Tonga, 56 minutes

16:48 , Harry Latham-Coyle

And a penalty means England will clear, with Ben Tameifuna looking a little short of puff after nearly an hour of exertions as he is deemed the cause of the collapse.

England 34-3 Tonga, 55 minutes

16:47 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A decent drive from Tonga but that ball isn’t coming back. To little surprise it is Maro Itoje at the heart of it, fighting his way through bodies to get to the ball and clinging on as it comes naturally to floor. Craig Evans initially declares that the ball is available but the referee admits his error to the whoops of the England eight, who will pack down for a scrum which Ben Youngs will feed.

England 34-3 Tonga, 54 minutes

16:45 , Harry Latham-Coyle

There’s the roar - the England fans say a hearty, hopeful hello to Marcus Smith as he wins his third cap, replacing the rather effective George Furbank with plenty of time left to make an impression.

He’s setting some plays on an inviting blindside when England fail to secure tidy ruck ball and are penalised. Kurt Morath propels his forwards for the corner and a chance to drive for the line.

TRY! ENGLAND 34-3 Tonga (Ben Youngs try, 51 minutes)

16:43 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Ben Youngs plays the thief in the night and is away for his second!

It’s a proper mugging, too. Sione Vailanu plucks the ball from the base of the scrum and Youngs is swiftly upon him. Valianu is so preoccupied with swatting the nine away that he fails to realise he is relinquishing his grip on the ball, with pilfering hands from Youngs allowing him to take it with him as he spins towards the Tongan line.

Off he races and try as Tonga might they won’t catch him as Youngs goes 60 metres for the score. Henry Slade strikes the left-hand post with his kick.

England 29-3 Tonga, 49 minutees

16:41 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Another penalty against England allows Tonga to make progress - kicked towards the fringes of England’s 22...

But a useful hand from Jonny Hill at the lineout and England have the ball. A waste for Tonga, who haven’t been able to build from stable set-piece at all this afternoon.

England 29-3 Tonga, 47 minutes

16:39 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga have managed to pilfer ball on a coupel of occasions this afternoon and do so again crucially here as England look to build in their 22. That man Kata finally gets an opportunity with ball in hand and beats a couple with a hitch-kicking dart, and after Tonga eventually clear their lines a midfield knock-on means the visitors will set a scrum.

Meanwhile Marcus Smith is warming up with purpose. It may not be long before the Harlequins fly-half joins proceedings.

YELLOW CARD! Walter Fifita is sent to the sin bin! England 29-3 Tonga, 45 minutes

16:37 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Walter Fifita could be in trouble here! England are sniffing an inviting overlap as Fifita jumps out the line, extends a hand, and deliberately knocks on. Beauden Barrett got lucky last week but there is no argument for Fifita, really - off he goes. Tonga drop down to 14 again as their other wing takes a seat that will, at least, be warmed by the recently back with us Solomone Kata.

England 29-3 Tonga, 44 minutes

16:35 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A first sighting of Alex Dombrandt since the Harlequins’ back rower’s arrival and it is a positive one - combining with Tom Curry for a strong double tackle as they stand up the Tongan carrier.

England win a kicking duel and will throw a lineout inside the Tonga half.

England 29-3 Tonga, 43 minutes

16:33 , Harry Latham-Coyle

And that’s a little loose from England. Some rather aimless tight-in carries from forwards are unduly rewarded by Kyle Sinckler and co. failing to escape the ruck swiftly enough. Penalty to the visitors and a chance to clear in comfort.

England 29-3 Tonga, 42 minutes

16:33 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A misfire. A dropped ball as England try to maul and Tongan feed at the scrum as the wind just begins to blow a bit more strongly at Twickenham.

England 29-3 Tonga, 41 minutes

16:32 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Crikey does Manu Tuilagi look good! First the England centre rampages down the right, freed by a late pass from Henry Slade, skipping beyond Telusa Veainu and getting a very nifty offload off the floor when he is finally felled.

The next pass goes awry though, and thanks to an incredibly deft flick off the grass Tonga try and counter, a movement ended by a positive tonking into touch from a retreating Tuilagi.

In fact, England will have a penalty - a sly tug of a supporting English shirt as Tuilagi made his break and England will kick for the corner.


16:30 , Harry Latham-Coyle

The second half is underway!

The players return

16:30 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga are back out first at Twickenham, soon to be replenished to a full fifteen when Solomone Kata is permitted to return from the sin bin in a couple of minutes.

England return, with one notable absentee - Sam Underhill has his jacket on, which means Alex Dombrandt will have 40 minutes to make an impression. You’d suggest that means Tom Curry on the openside - but you never know with Eddie Jones.

Anyway, George Furbank will give it a first skywards hoist...

A strong crowd at Twickenham

16:26 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Eddie Jones says he hoped to prevent any Mexican waves on the occasion of the return of a full crowd to Twickenham, and but for one rather lacklustre effort in the corner of the top tier, his side have succeeded. It has been hard to assess the intent of his side against a team that are allowing England plenty of spaces to attack, but they have looked more purposeful with ball-in-hand in theat first 40 minutes than for much of the Six Nations and last year’s autumn fixtures, roared on by a genuine capacity crowd.

THAT Courtney Lawes tackle

16:22 , Harry Latham-Coyle


H/T: England 29-3 Tonga

16:20 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga have been mildly disappointing, kicking often when they have had the ball despite some very, very strong carriers able to win the gainline with regularity. They were perhaps slow to support Telusa Veainu after he had reeled in that intercept, though it wouldn’t have mattered had Courtney Lawes not produced a corner-flag cover tackle for the ages.

H/T: England 29-3 Tonga

16:18 , Harry Latham-Coyle

You would suggest that England will be reasonably pleased with that first half. Five tries and one outstanding defensive intervention the highlights as they settled into their work rather well, with George Furbank knitting himself in to the midfield crochet rather tidily, with one particularly promising burst through a gap. Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade have been troublesome for Tonga, while the ball for Ben Youngs has been quick, and duly delivered with a certain sharpness that hasn’t always been apparent.


16:15 , Harry Latham-Coyle

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

TRY! ENGLAND 29-3 Tonga (Ben Youngs try, 40 minutes)

16:14 , Harry Latham-Coyle

And England score before half-time! It’s a clever plan from the lineout, crabbing the maul infield to expose the blindside, still unmanned with Solomone Kata in the bin. Jamie George spots the space after getting a call from the outside, alighting at the right stop as Tonga pile bodies into the rumbling mass, and drawing a three-on-two.

The last defender fades to the outside as George shifts the ball on to Ben Youngs, who uses the threat of Jonny May’s speed on the edge to dummy, go, and grab himself a score. Henry Slade pushes his conversion left of the posts, and that’ll do us for the first 40.

England 24-3 Tonga, 39 minutes

16:12 , Harry Latham-Coyle

England win a penalty at the scrum but the touch-finder from George Furbank is inaccurate, collected just infield. But Tom Curry is swiftly over the ball as Sam Underhill brings down Telusa Veainu after he had stepped Curry, and Craig Evans awards a holding on penalty.

Of concern for England, though, will be Underhill, who stays down having got his tackle technique slightly wrong as he tried to corral Veainu. The medics attend to him, but it seems he will continue - yep, back to his feet, though perhaps not looking in the finest of fettle. Henry Slade kicks the penalty for the 22 as the clock ticks towards 40...

NO TRY! England 24-3 Tonga, 36 minutes

16:09 , Harry Latham-Coyle

What a tackle from the England captain! It is a simply astonishing defensive intervention from Courtney Lawes to deny Telusa Veainu what would have been a quite brilliant score.

Veainu, as is his wont, had plucked the ball one-handed out of the air as Henry Slade looked to put two teammates in down the left. The former Leicester Tigers full-back races down the right, dancing past his successor in the 15 jersey at Welford Road, Freddie Steward, and looked a certainty to go over in the corner. He just loses puff, though, allowing Lawes to get his long limbs around him and dislodge the ball as Veainu readies a final reach for the line. A piece of defensive magnificence from Lawes.

England 24-3 Tonga, 35 minutes

16:04 , Harry Latham-Coyle

What more damage can England do before half-time against a Tongan side shorn of a winger? For now they are content to clear their lines after claiming the restart.

TRY! ENGLAND 24-3 Tonga (Maro Itoje try, 33 minutes)

16:03 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Try number four for England! England are punching holes with alarming regularity now, this time Ellis Genge driving through a tackler after a nifty inside ball from Courtney Lawes at the line, choppy strides as he readies himself for another contact, bustling through it and freeing the arms. Maro Itoje had effortlessly stayed alongside his loosehead and a final rumble and tumble and Itoje is over. The conversion is a simpler affair for Henry Slade from just right of centre - England extend their lead.

YELLOW CARD! Solomone Kata is sent to the sin bin, 32 minutes

16:01 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Yep, that’s the conclusion of the officiating team, and the landing of May on his side was particularly hefty. It’s a yellow card, with Kata sent to the bin to see out the half on the naughty step despite the protestations of his captain Takulua, who claims he had his eyes on the ball. True, but that was all a bit clumsy from Kata.

England 17-3 Tonga, 31 minutes

16:00 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tom Curry stomps away angrily from the base of the scrum, taking contact with Sonatane Takulua, who has spent more of the afternoon than he would like dropping off of tackles, and does so again here.

Ooh - that looks nasty! Jonny May out-leaps Solomone Kata in the air and lands hard on his back. Kata misjudged the flight of the ball and didn’t look in a realistic position to claim it. Craig Evans will have a consultation with TMO Ben Whitehouse...

TRY! ENGLAND 17-3 Tonga (Jonny May try, 28 minutes)

15:58 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A brilliant England score! They counter-attack after Adam Radwan claims a loose clearance and play to the right, sharp handling from George Furbank as he is slammed in a double-tackle allowing Manu Tuilagi a rumble in open pasture. He gets rid of one tackler and threatens to charge through another, but is just about brought down inside the Tongan 22.

The visitors’ scramble to populate the close-in spaces but are thus under-resourced on the left edge, exploited well by a pivoting Jamie George and Freddie Steward, who gives Jonny May an inviting one-on-one in the tramline. A shimmy of the hips dazzles the defender and May celebrates with a belly flop as he goes over for England’s third. Henry Slade hits the spot from the tee to make it a full seven-pointer.

England 10-3 Tonga, 27 minutes

15:54 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Nearly through! Henry Slade bursts through a virtually imperceptible half-hole in midfield with Manu Tuilagi in the sidecar, but he can’t quite connect with his centre partner as he tries a back-of-the-hand offload.

England 10-3 Tonga, 25 minutes

15:53 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga are growing into this, and nick a loose breakdown ball from England as they spot an under-resourced midfield mass. They again attempt to use the boot to make further advancements but Solomone Kata has gone off his feet. England penalty.

England 10-3 Tonga, 24 minutes

15:52 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A miscue from England. Jamie George’s dart hits double tops but Kyle Sinckler slides behind Maro Itoje as he brings him to ground, obstructing the Tongan defensive set-up. Craig Evans spots it, pings it, and Tonga can clear.

England 10-3 Tonga, 23 minutes

15:50 , Harry Latham-Coyle

George Furbank is away! A gap opens and the stand-in fly-half sashays through it, bouncing off a tackler and racing into the Tongan backfield. He is taken high as he crabs across field and England will go to their profitable right corner to see what more riches they may find.

England 10-3 Tonga, 22 minutes

15:49 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Sione Vailanu on the charge! The number eight gets-a-rumbling, brushing Ben Youngs from his waist and delivering a thump to the chest of George Furbank as he knocks the England fly-half back.

Tonga play a few more phases and then poke in behind but the ubiquitous Steward hustles across to again gather and clear, and James Faiva follows suit to about halfway.

England 10-3 Tonga, 20 minutes

15:48 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Maro Itoje looks to make a nuisance of himself at the breakdown in trademark fashion, drawing a number of Tongan hands in protection of Sonatane Takulua. Freddie Steward rushes forward to claim another high bomb superbly and does even better to flick an offload infield as Walter Fifita drives him for touch, but it’s gone forwards from the hands of Sam Underhill. Tonga scrum.

PENALTY! England 10-3 TONGA (Sonatane Takulua penalty, 19 minutes)

15:46 , Harry Latham-Coyle

This one is from the left, seven or so metres infield...and that’s a mighty strike. The flags of the touch judges flutter as they are raised to signal Tonga’s first score.

England 10-0 Tonga, 17 minutes

15:45 , Harry Latham-Coyle

No dice! Takulua has the distance but over-kicks it slightly, dragging it acros the face and allowing Freddie Steward to boot the ball away.

Tonga go to the air from the ruck after claiming Steward’s clearance, and an obstruction from Tom Curry means that Steward’s great leap to claim it will be wasted. A penalty to Tonga, and a second chance for Takulua.

England 10-0 Tonga, 16 minutes

15:43 , Harry Latham-Coyle

That is less good from England. A penalty after the restart and a first chance for Tonga to put points on the board. Sonatane Takulua assesses the breeze at a slightly blustery Twickenham and reckons he will have a go at goal from just inside the 15-metre line, 40 metres out. He’s normally relatively reliable...

Adam Radwan opened the scoring for England with a strong finish in the corner

15:42 , Harry Latham-Coyle

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

TRY! ENGLAND 10-0 Tonga (Jamie George try, 13 minutes)

15:41 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Jamie George is over! The hooker hits his jumper, rides the back of England’s meaty maul drive and bursts away as he spies white, taking Sonatane Takulua with him as he barrels over for five more English points. An angry hurl of the ball to the crowd in a celebration of sorts - having been left out of the original squad that is a try that will please the Saracen.

Henry Slade misses to the left of the uprights from a virtually identical spot to the first.

England 5-0 Tonga, 12 minutes

15:39 , Harry Latham-Coyle

More good maul defence from Tonga but here come England, Ben Youngs finding a passageway he thought open quickly blocked and forced to swiftly shift on to former Leicester teammate Manu Tuilagi.

Tonga infringe, though - twice, in fact. A high tackle and a failure to roll away, and another Slade kick will give England opportunity to try their luck in the other corner.

England 5-0 Tonga, 10 minutes

15:38 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga burst through! But those are Manu Tuilagi’s waiting hands! An errant pass finds the England centre and he passes on, George Furbank hammering upfield and asking Jonny May to chase a hopping rabbit, with Tonga only able to clear to about 35 metres out.

A penalty at the first post-lineout contact and England hit the corner through Henry Slade’s excellent kick from hand. Chance number two for the home side.

England 5-0 Tonga, 8 minutes

15:36 , Harry Latham-Coyle

First blood for Tonga at the set-piece - Kyle Sinckler is confused but Craig Evans believes he has stepped back on engagement, causing an instability. Sinckler poses a question of the referee as England prepare for a defensive lineout just outside of their own 22.

England 5-0 Tonga, 7 minutes

15:34 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Stable ball for Tonga and a first sighting of the rather large Walter Fifita off his wing as he looks to make dents in the England midfield. He is, just about, well handled, and England crab across well as Tonga play to width for the first time, and a knock-on from a stooping Paul Ngauamo means both eights will settle down again for another scrum, about 25 metres across the pitch.

England 5-0 Tonga, 6 minutes

15:32 , Harry Latham-Coyle

England look to work the phases but there is the first miscommunication of the afternoon as George Furbank plows into the back of Manu Tuilagi like an impatient commuter having failed to peel quite far enough around his inside centre as Henry Slade pulled the pass back for the looping ten. Scrum to Tonga - a first visit to the abattoir for the afternoon, and an inevitable first reset.

England 5-0 Tonga, 5 minutes

15:31 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Maro Itoje takes down the restart very effectively once more and Tonga infringe needlessly at the maul, darting in at the side as England just start to get a nudge on. England possession on halfway.

TRY! England 5-0 Tonga (Adam Radwan try, 3 minutes)

15:30 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Adam Radwan’s over! A perfect start for England, moving the ball efficiently back across the field, drawing a penalty advantage and a licence to further spread it. Ben Youngs fizzes a pass across the face of George Furbank and a hop, skip and jump from Radwan, with a burly final barge, takes him over for the early score. Typically swift footwork from the newcastle wing.

Henry Slade has assumed kicking duties with Owen Farrell absent, but drags his first effort left of the uprights from the touchline. 5-0 it will stay, but England are away.

England 0-0 Tonga, 2 minutes

15:28 , Harry Latham-Coyle

“Heave” is the cry of the crowd as England maul, but Tonga defend well, and stall it.

A first midfield carry for Manu Tuilagi and he is nearly through a half-gap. Wide, now, Jonny May jinking and jiving to five metres out...

England 0-0 Tonga, 1 minute

15:27 , Harry Latham-Coyle

England go straight to the air and have success immediately, Jonny May out-jumping his man and earning England possession near halfway. To the boot again, and this time Tonga take the ball down deep in their own territory, from where they will play.

Now they look to clear, and that’s a little ugly from Kurt Morath - skewed out short of his own 22. A fine attacking platform for England.


15:26 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A Covid-19 positive test to England’s captain and a slight delay to kick-off, but we are finally ready to go. Craig Evans whistles and we are underway at Twickenham!

Tonga to kick off...

15:24 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Sipi Tau

15:23 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga assemble themselves in an arrow head for their laying down of the challenge to the England squad, who stand, arms on shoulders, along their own 10-metre line. Sonatane Takulua heads the formation, headband topping intense eyes.

Time for action.


15:21 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A powerfully delivered version of “Ko e fasi Ê»o e tuÊ»i Ê»o e Ê»Otu Tonga”, with the Tongan players draping hands across hearts.

And Twickenham joins in to add the punch of 82,000 or so to the soprano strains of “God Save the Queen”. The fans are back and, on that evidence, in fine voice.

Courtney Lawes heads the England line

15:19 , Harry Latham-Coyle

An unexpected, but no doubt proud, moment for Courtney Lawes as he leads out England at Twickenham for the first time as he approaches 90 caps. England will be wearing their change strip but are clad in white jackets - Tonga just their sleeveless white jerseys.

Out come the players

15:17 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Great flamethrowers and a giant Saint George’s Cross, as is custom, to welcome the players to the pitch. Tonga are out first, welcomed warmly by the crowd.

Marcus Smith gets a roar

15:10 , Harry Latham-Coyle

A loud roar goes up as Marcus Smith’s name is announced ahead of kick-off. Safe to say the Harlequins ten is rather popular in this particular parish. He has barely trained this week but took a full part in the captain’s run yesterday - how long will Eddie Jones give him off the bench given he is probably in line to start against Australia next Saturday?

What to expect from Tonga

15:08 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga will hope to be better than they were against Scotland last weekend, bolstered by a group of returning players now free from club duty. They will likely look to play off nine a lot, with Sonatane Takulua picking his runners close in to try and punch holes around the corner.

They should be strong at scrum time, with two battle-gnarled props, and could be dangerous on the counter-attack - Leicester fans will need no introduction to Telusa Veainu’s flashing feet.

Twickenham fans back en masse

15:04 , Harry Latham-Coyle

We’ve had fleeting glimpses of a Twickenham crowd over the last 18 months or so, with a brief dalliance with a return last December and a reduced number allowed in for the summer fixtures, but today is the first time that a full attendance is permitted.

Judging by a chaotic lunchtime on London’s public transport, they will be back in force, with a capacity crowd declared. There are rather large swathes of empty green seats at the moment, though with some slightly more onerous Covid-19 protocols on entry, and the chance to busy the bars of Twickenham for the first time in a while, it may just be a little slow to fill.

The debutants

14:51 , Harry Latham-Coyle


14:47 , Harry Latham-Coyle

The kick-off at Twickenham has been delayed slightly due to a late team arrival.


14:47 , Harry Latham-Coyle

The kick-off at Twickenham has been delayed slightly due to a late team arrival.

One to watch - Lopeti Timani

14:46 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Lopeti Timani makes his second international debut having shifted his eligibility to Tonga by appearing in an Olympic Sevens qualifying tournament. Now of Toulon, he has been impressive for La Rochelle in the last few years and adds extra nous and punch to the pack.

But for injury, Malakai Fekitoa would have joined him in making a Test debut having also re-qualified via the same loophole, but the former All Black is absent. World Rugby are understood to be considering changing their eligibility criteria to be more lenient on players switching, so there may well be more Tongan-qualified players pulling on a red jersey before long.

One to watch - Ellis Genge

14:42 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Ellis Genge, now an England vice-captain, rarely lacks for intensity but he might just have a little something extra this afternoon. While Joe Marler returns to the bench, refreshed after his break from international rugby, with Mako Vunipola moved on, this is a chance for Genge to seize the starting loosehead shirt as he enters his theoretical prime years.

His elevation to the leadership team is a mark of both his standing in Eddie Jones’ thoughts and his evolution as a player, and the reports from Leicester since his appointment as captain at Welford Road have been of a player with unique ability to relate to his fellow players.

One to watch - Ben Tameifuna

14:39 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It is reasonably hard to miss Ben Tameifuna. A great boulder of a human being he is a strong scrummaging anchor on the tight head of almost comical size. He’s slimmed down a touch after falling foul of old club Racing 92 after the 2019 World Cup but offers a nuanced attacking game, ever a threat on the carry, of course, but also able to challenge as a close-to-the-line distributor.

Look out for back-up loosehead Loni Uhila, too. The man they call the Tongan Bear has dropped down the divisions in France but is a multi-faceted attacking threat reared at the Hurricanes in New Zealand.

One to watch - Freddie Steward

14:35 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Described by Eddie Jones as a “taller Mike Brown” this week, Freddie Steward starts in the 15 shirt after a mightily impressive last couple of years at Leicester. He is of a classical full-back mould, particularly strong under the high ball and possessing an easy acceleration to second gear to go along with sharp linking hands.

He has looked largely to the manor born since his arrival at senior level rugby but this is his first opportunity in the fuly-fledged England side. Elliot Daly’s injury absence may have opened the door slightly but Steward is a player of quality who could become a fixture in this side.

England out to be ‘more aggressive’ in attack

14:32 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It all rather became redundant after yesterday’s Farrell news, but Eddie Jones spoke this week of a need for this new-look England to be “more aggressive”, having drawn a “line in a sand” after their Six Nations struggles earlier in the year.

Eddie Jones aims to unleash England’s misfiring attack against Tonga

Team News - Tonga

14:24 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Tonga, meanwhile, are as advertised, as far as we are aware. Sione Vailanu will be a familiar name, with the number eight now a seasoned Premiership regular after stints at Saracens, Wasps and Worcester, while captain Sonatane Takulua’s cultured kicking game and threat around the fringes will be familiar to Newcastle fans.

There are debuts for Lopeti Timani, Afusipa Taumopeau and former NRL star Solomone Kata in a side with plenty of experience - and power.

Team News - England

14:21 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Let’s confirm the team news in full, then. England begin with a remodelled back row, Tom Curry at number eight ahead of Alex Dombrandt and reunited with Sam Underhill, who combines with captain Courtney Lawes on the flanks. New vice-captain Ellis Genge is the loosehead, with Jamie George, having earned a reprieve after Luke Cowan-Dickie’s injury, back in the squad and back in from the start.

Behind the scrum, Adam Radwan and Freddie Steward will look to build on promising summer fixtures in the back three, while Manu Tuilagi, like the 82,000 fans or so expected to busy the rafters today, is back at Twickenham for the first time since England’s Six Nations clash with Wales in March 2020.

An opportunity for Mark Atkinson

14:15 , Harry Latham-Coyle

On to the bench, meanwhile, steps Mark Atkinson for a potential debut. The Gloucester man has plenty of excellent qualities - an upright carrying 12 with deft hands and an underrated short kicking game. He could fit well with fellow replacement Marcus Smith, who has thrived with a similar player in Andre Esterhuizen alongside him across the Chertsey Road at the Stoop.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

How the team news changes England

14:08 , Harry Latham-Coyle

It is a gamble from Eddie Jones to start George Furbank at fly-half but he has long been keen to see the Northampton man in the ten shirt. He endured a reasonably tough debut against France last year, but Tonga should allow him plenty of opportunity to play instinctively. Manu Tuilagi will be a useful crutch alongside him, of course, and you’d expect England to utilise their midfield carriers early and often. It will be interesting to see how Furbank fares.

England vs Tonga Preview

14:03 , Harry Latham-Coyle

Eddie Jones faces decision at fly-half after Owen Farrell’s positive Covid-19 test

England vs Tonga - Team News

13:59 , Harry Latham-Coyle

The RFU have not yet confirmed, but that will presumably also mean Owen Farrell is out of next weekend’s clash with Australia.

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