England started the defence of their Six Nations title with a 46-15 win over a determined Italy side in Rome on Sunday.
The defending champions, who are looking for an unprecedented third title in a row, raced to a 10-point lead but were made to work hard by Italy, who were impressive with their attacking intent but ultimately ran out of steam against the England juggernaut in the last quarter.
England scored seven tries – three in the last 15 minutes – with Anthony Watson and Sam Simmonds getting two tries each and Owen Farrell, George Ford and Jack Nowell also going over. Farrell had an off day with the boot, kicking just four conversions and a penalty.
Watson pounced for two early tries to give England a flying start. However, Eddie Jones saw his side pegged back when Tommaso Benvenuti breached England lines for a slick score and Tommaso Allan booted the extras, before Farrell converted his own try to restore the 10-point cushion.
A penalty from Allan before the break put Italy just one score adrift at half-time.
Simmonds marked his Six Nations debut with two well-taken second-half tries, the No 8 driving through the porous Italy defensive lines in impressive fashion.
Ford and Nowell also got in on the act as Italy’s challenge crumbled.
The hosts’ solitary second-half try came from Mattia Bellini who dived over in the corner, with the television match official giving his nod to the scorer who stayed just inside touch when dotting down.
Tommaso Boni had earlier seen a try disallowed for Italy due to a forward pass when England’s lead stood at just 20-10, to relief in the Red Rose ranks.
England did the basics right and their ball handling from the whole team was also excellent. Their scrum was very impressive and they performed in the lineout. Sam Simmonds produced an eye-catching performance – not only with his pace when the game opened up and his two tries, but also with his defensive efforts.
Italy will be pleased with their efforts in the first half and their first try was a top-drawer effort.
Italy’s defence was found wanting a few times and needed to put more pressure on George Ford and Owen Farrell who were given a lot of time and space on the ball. They really ran out of steam in the last 15 and England put them under huge pressure.
For England, well it was a good day at the office for them with only a couple of lapses in concentration and a few discipline blips, but Eddie Jones will be pleased with the way they performed. Lets hope the knee injury that saw Ben Youngs stretchered off is not as nasty as it looks and that we see him back in action soon.
Man of the match