|England (19) 31|
|Tries: Willis, Chessum, George, Penalty, Arundell Cons: Farrell 2|
|Italy (0) 14|
|Tries: Riccioni, Fusco Con: Allan 2|
England earned a first win of Steve Borthwick’s tenure with a pragmatic bonus-point win over Italy in the Six Nations at Twickenham.
Jack Willis marked his return to the side with an opening try before Ollie Chessum powered over for the second.
Jamie George added a third from close range but Italy hit back after the break through Marco Riccioni.
A penalty try sealed the bonus and Henry Arundell scored a fifth, while Alessandro Fusco claimed a consolation.
Victory for the hosts – their 30th win in 30 meetings with Italy – lifts them to third in the table, above defending champions France on points difference, while Italy drop down to fifth.
Borthwick’s men travel to Cardiff to face Wales in their next game on 25 February, after next weekend’s break, as the Azzurri host world number one side Ireland earlier on the same day.
Underwhelming England get the job done
After a narrow opening round defeat by Scotland, the task for England was simple: beat perennial Six Nations underperformers Italy and build momentum at the beginning of the Borthwick era.
The overriding objective may have been achieved, but for 70 minutes this was far from a vintage England performance.
Captain Owen Farrell, moved from inside centre to fly-half, looked for territory but kicked possession away when the hosts had front foot ball, and Henry Slade had a quiet game on his return to outside centre but Ollie Lawrence carried and tackled hard in a new-look midfield.
Willis was a notable performer, tirelessly hunting anything in a royal blue shirt before being rewarded for his defensive endeavour with the opening try.
The Toulouse back row was the beneficiary as England ran a line-out move off the training paddock and mauled their way over the line.
Ellis Genge showed deft hands to hand the second to Chessum after inviting contact close to the line and popping off the ball to his former Leicester Tigers team-mate to finish.
The line-out ladder has become synonymous with former lock Borthwick and his warm-up contribution with his pack, and the hard work seems to be paying off as George threw in the ball before joining the back of the maul and finishing off the third.
A penalty try followed after the interval as Italy were penalised for their ill-discipline at the breakdown but one of the loudest cheers came when the exciting Arundell was introduced from the bench as Twickenham yearned for more free-flowing rugby.
The wing had few touches but he was on hand to capitalise as fellow replacement Alex Mitchell spotted a gap in the tiring Azzurri defence late and fed him to dart through and produce an acrobatic finish in the corner.
Arundell complemented a midfield which improved from last week’s showing as Ollie Lawrence carried hard at inside centre while captain Owen Farrell kicked away possession with his side on the front foot
Young Italy side keep improving
Italy were so close to a huge upset against last year’s Grand Slam winners France in their opening game but they ultimately failed to see it through.
Facing England at Twickenham has previously been an altogether different tasks. The Azzurri had not beaten England in any of 29 attempts before Sunday but they played with a fluidity that their hosts lacked.
They had more possession (52%) and made 286 more metres than England as they looked to keep the ball alive.
The visitors did not trouble the scorers in the first 40 minutes, but Riccioni marked his first international start since November 2021 with a powerful surge as many of the spectators inside Twickenham were still to return to their seats at the start of the second half.
Ange Capuozzo was a constant threat as he glided across the turf and spun his way out of trouble several times. A second try came through Fusco, who rode the tackle and dived over at full stretch to give the travelling fans a glimmer of hope.
Italy’s ill-discipline cost them as they conceded two first-half tries while Lorenzo Cannone was in the sin bin, but their attacking intent has to be commended as this young side – with an average age of 26 – continue to employ a fast-paced game.
Man of the match
What they said
Former England scrum-half Danny Care on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I think Steve Borthwick and the coaches will be happy. England went back to basics, they kicked well and attacked well, and were clinical when they got chances.
“One thing for certain is England are about to play better teams than today. Going to Wales, Wales have not played well at all this tournament and they will pitch up against England.
“But away to Ireland and home to France, that is where we will have an indication how good this England team is.
“Fair play to Italy they stuck on in there. I think they will beat someone in this tournament if everything comes together.”
England: Steward; Malins, Slade, Lawrence, Hassell-Collins; Farrell (c), Van Poortvliet; Genge, George, Sinckler; Itoje, Chessum; Ludlam, Willis, Dombrandt.
Replacements: Walker, M Vunipola, Cole, Isiekwe, Earl, Mitchell, M Smith, Arundell.
Italy: Capuozzo; Padovani, Brex, Morisi, Menoncello; Allan, Varney; Fischetti, Nicotera, Riccioni, N Cannone, Ruzza, Negri, Lamaro, L Cannone
Replacements: Bigi, Zani, Ferrari, Iachizzi, Polledri, Zuliani, Fusco, Bruno
Referee: James Doleman (Nzl)
Touch judges: Mathieu Raynal (Fra) and Tual Trainini (Fra)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (Fra)