After patiently waiting through the boredom of the International wilderness that is December and January here we are, the Six Nations the oldest and my personal favourite rugby tournament. There’s nothing quite like taking on your nearest and dearest neighbours in battle (as long as you win). So on Sunday England took on Italy at the Stade Olimpico in what would be a real performance benchmark and a test for England’s younger stars. Eddie Jones men went to the game with a swagger that comes with only one international loss since the Australian took charge.
After a bright England start through a well worked try Italy really held there own in the first half to present a real challenge for the men in white but in the end England’s quality and superior fitness told and the eventually went on to take a comfortable win, Italy 15, England 46.
England player ratings
15 Mike Brown, his usual tenacious self, if not a little impetuous at times. Will be disappointed to have dropped two high balls and give away a penalty for a high tackle. 6/10
14 Anthony Watson, a superb display of attacking talent. Both tries showed why he is rated as one of the best finishers in world rugby. Very close to being awarded the Gain Line star man. 9/10
13 Ben Te’o, brought into the team as a strong running counterfoil to balance the two playmakers inside him. Not his best performance but the big league convert will be happy to be playing at all after his recent injury worries. 6/10
12 Owen Farrell, a mixed bag for the Saracens man as he wasn’t quite his usual imperious self off the tee but looked at his best with ball in hand. Seems to have added a little subtlety to his game. 8/10
11 Jonny May, always looked for work and constantly kept the Italian defence on their toes. Although didn’t bag a meat pie May did everything his coaching team would have wanted. 7/10
10 George Ford, often sits in the shadows of his friend Owen Farrell but let me tell you, this lad has got some serious quality. Bosses the attack with finesse that not many other international tens can offer. 8/10
9 Ben Youngs, wasn’t really on long enough to have any impact as stretchered off after 10 minutes with a nasty looking knee injury. Best wishes to the Leicester nine. n/a
1 Mako Vunipola, gave the England machine good front ball with strong scrummaging and punchy carries, not his spectacular best but by no means a bad day at the office. 7/10
2 Dylan Hartley, carries on his incredible record as England captain. solid as ever without doing anything to eye catching. Greta work rate from the skipper. 7/10
3 Dan Cole, one of Eddie Jones favourites, labelling him as on his way to being the best tight hbead in the world. Like Hartley, Cole doesn’t do anything flashy but rarely puts a foot wrong. 7/10
4 Joe Launchbury, another work horse in the England pack, Launchbury has to be the hardest working player on the planet, unbelievable engine and has added a carrying game to pitch in with the attack. 7/10
5 Maro Itoje, a lot of people wont agree but I prefer the young man at second row, it takes a little pressure off him and allows him to just get on with job of securing ball. Will rarely have a bad game in his career. 7/10
6 Courtney Lawes, another player I [prefer in the second row but playing 6 did give the Saints man more opportunity to get wide and do what he does best, tackle. Got a knock early on but carried on like the trooper he is. 7/10
7 Chris Robshaw, at 6 or 7, Robshaw is the glue that bonds this pack together, never takes a backwards step and will tackle till his shoulder falls off. Really leads by example from the back row. 7/10
8 Sam Simmonds, not a bad debut from the Chiefs player. Not the huge hulking frame of a Billy Vunipola but with that gas who cares, always reminds me of an English Michael Hopper, could that be an indication of his future international position? Absolutely superb. 9/10 Gain Line Star Man.
Replacements; George 6(Hartley, 54), Hepburn 6(Vunipola, 73), Williams 6(Cole 54), Kruis 6(Lawes, 59), Underhill 6(Robshaw, 67), Care 7(Youngs, 10), Joseph 7(Te’o, 59). Nowell 7(Brown, 61)