Fiji have lined themselves up as England’s first opponents at next year’s World Cup after they thrashed the Cook Islands 108-6 in the last qualifying match for the Oceania region in Lautoka, Fiji.
The Fijians will take on the host nation at Twickenham after running in 17 tries. But the Cook Islands – ranked No 46 in the world with only 500 registered players – kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the first time when they led 6-5 after 27 minutes against a Fiji team beset by handling errors. When Fiji’s giant ball-runners began to hold passes and combine in thrilling attacks, the outsiders were overwhelmed.
Fiji will play in Pool A at the World Cup, alongside England, Wales, Australia and a qualifier, and will meet England in the tournament’s opening match at Twickenham.
Fiji scored their first try in the second minute through full-back Matuisela Talebula. Centre Nemani Nadolo scored three tries and Talebula, Adriu Delai, Nikola Matawalu and Timoci Nagusa all scored twice. But Cook Islands fly-half Sam Vaevae slotted two penalties to grab a 6-5 lead and momentarily shake Fiji’s confidence.
When passes began to stick, Fiji’s superiority became immediately obvious and overwhelming, and they added four tries in 13 minutes to lead 29-6 at half-time.
The second half belonged wholly to Fiji, who added 13 more tries to ease past 100 points.
Scotland went into the First Test in Port Elizabeth seeking to extend their run of victories in America, Canada and Argentina but they were overrun by South Africa, crashing 55-6.
Vern Cotter’s men were no match for the hosts, who ran in eight tries in a dominant display, running riot in the first and final quarters, while their cast-iron defence dealt with the gutsy, young Scottish side.