Electrifying Dom Young sparks England rout of Fiji and World Cup excitement | Rugby league

The waiting – like the talking, thankfully – is almost over. The buildup to the Rugby League World Cup has been dominated by negative headlines, ill-judged comments and endless controversies. But now, with a week to go until England kick off the men’s tournament against Samoa in Newcastle, it feels as if we can finally focus on the rugby at long last.

World Cup warm-ups do not necessarily act as a precursor for what will follow in the tournament. England slipped up on this very ground against Italy nine years ago, before going on to make the semi-finals. But on a wet, miserable night in Salford, this was a performance which will offer great encouragement for a showdown against a Samoa team that are being tipped to cause an upset in a game which will in effect decide who wins Group A.

Shaun Wane certainly has food for thought, not least after an eye-catching international debut from Dom Young. The Wakefield-born winger has been a sensation in the NRL with Newcastle, and after turning down Jamaica to feature for England, Young was subject to comments from the broadcaster Eddie Hemmings, who said he wasn’t “English in the strict sense of the word”. It led to a swift apology but Young certainly let his rugby do the talking here.

He marked his international debut with a try and had a hand in several others as England cantered to victory against Fiji, who have reached the semi-finals of the last three World Cups. Granted, this was not their strongest side, with several key players still making their way to England for the tournament. But as Wane said: “That was very impressive given the conditions. I thought we did really well. Some of the skill was very impressive.”

Wane was not wrong. England led 28-0 at half-time and never looked back, with Young the star of the show in that first 40 minutes. He broke the deadlock with a well-taken try in the corner before turning provider to assist tries for George Williams and Kallum Watkins. That, combined with another debut try, this time for Salford’s hooker Andy Ackers, who raced over from close-range, and one for Joe Batchelor, who seized upon an error from Isaac Lumelume, put England in control at the break.

George Williams runs to score England's fourth try
George Williams scores England’s fourth try on their way to a 28-0 lead at half-time. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

It was a display which left the opposition’s coach impressed, too. “We didn’t get much right but England were very good,” Brian McDermott, the former Leeds coach who is helping Fiji at this year’s tournament, said. “We’ll look at it but it was a disappointing performance from us.” McDermott, as brutal as ever with his assessment, was right. Fiji did not handle the abysmal conditions quite as well as England, and the hosts took full advantage.

Young was not the only star on show here, but with Tommy Makinson and Ryan Hall his competition for a place in the side next Saturday at St James’ Park, this was a decent statement from the 21-year-old. Has he done enough to force his way into the 17 for Samoa? “We’ll see,” Wane said. “I was very impressed though. I’ll have a look after a review but there’s a good chance he’ll be in.”

The hours leading up to kick-off were dominated by controversy again, as the RFL confirmed their chief executive, Ralph Rimmer, would not face disciplinary action for disparaging comments made about the Fijians last week. But World Cup organizers will hope that is now firmly put to bed, and England did their part in helping shift the focus towards what should be a wonderful and unpredictable tournament.

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They took their foot off the gas after half-time. But leading 28-0, and with a huge clash next week to look ahead to, that is perhaps understandable. Wane introduced a litany of interchanges from the bench and six minutes after the restart, Luke Thompson was next to score after grounding a well-weighted kick from Marc Sneyd, another who caught the eye on debut.

There were also further tries from Mike McMeeken, Mike Cooper and Hall in the final quarter as England shifted through the gears. There will be plenty of twists and turns in the weeks ahead but in terms of laying a marker down, this was about as satisfying a night’s work as Wane could have hoped for.

England Welsby; Young, Watkins, Farnworth, Hall; Williams, Sneyd; Hill, Ackers, Cooper, Whitehead, McMeeken, Radley Tries Young, Ackers, Watkins, Williams, Batchelor, Thompson, McMeeken, Cooper, Hall goals Sneyd 7 Interchange Marshall, Powell, Thompson, Burgess, McIlorum, Batchelor, Smith, Wardle, Pearce-Paul

Fiji Naiqama; Qareqare, Ravalawa, Valemei, Vulikijapani; Moceidreke, Wakeham; Vuniyayawa, Tagiuima, Kamikamica, Miller, Seci, Liolevave Interchange Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu, Nakubuwai, Sadrugu, Masima, Wong, Lumelume, Taira

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