England held off Wales 23-19 in an international rugby Test match as Jonny Wilkinson kicked 13 points and Manu Tuilagi touched down in his national team debut.
James Haskell also scored a try for England, which led 20-7 in the second half at Twickenham Stadium in London. The game was both teams’ first warm-up match for the Rugby World Cup, which begins next month in New Zealand.
“It was a good run out for the boys,” England’s Tom Croft said in an interview with Sky Sports. “We’ve been working hard for six weeks and I think it showed today.”
George North touched down twice and Shane Williams once for Wales, with Rhys Priestland kicking two conversions.
“We kept right on going to the end and I’m proud of that,” Williams told Sky Sports. “It’s the first game, you’re always a little bit rusty. England were the same, but to be fair, they deserved it in the end.”
Wilkinson opened the scoring with a penalty goal in the sixth minute. North scored Wales’s first try along the right touchline in the 17th minute, finishing off a series of passes from the left, with Priestland converting to make it 7-3.
England went back in front eight minutes later after Haskell touched down off a five-meter scrum and Wilkinson converted. Wilkinson then booted a drop goal two minutes before halftime to extend the lead to 13-7.
Tuilagi scored his first England try three minutes into the second half when he took a pass from Wilkinson and burst through Welsh defense. Wilkinson added the conversion to push the advantage to 20-7.
Williams started the Wales comeback when he touched down n the right corner in the 56th minute, though Priestland put the conversion wide. Wilkinson then kicked another drop goal to increase the England lead to 23-12.
Wales pulled within 23-19 as North scored his second try and Priestland converted with four minutes left, but England was able to control the ball until time expired.
Both teams had players come off in the second half. Wales fullback Morgan Stoddart left after injuring his leg, while England captain Lewis Moody, returning to the team after missing last winter’s Six Nations with a knee injury, limped off with the help of training staff.
“He’s got a bit of a strain,” England manager Martin Johnson said of Moody. “You don’t know about these things for another 24 hours. Injuries are part of the game.”
The teams continue their World Cup preparations with a rematch Aug. 13 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
“These games are massive,” Williams said. “The boys are fighting for their positions. These games are almost as important as the World Cup at times.”
Joe Ansbro’s 76th-minute try gave Scotland a 10-6 win over Ireland in another World Cup warm-up at Murrayfield in Edinburgh.
Ruaridh Jackson converted Ansbro’s try and Chris Paterson added a penalty goal for Scotland. Jonathan Sexton kicked two penalties for the Ireland points.