With 5-tries scored and 0 conceded England delivered the ‘good hiding’
By Emma Thurston #OutOnTheFull
Eddie Jones was very clear about what he wanted his side to achieve during their trip to Rome, they were to give Italy a ‘good hiding’ and nothing less would suffice.
When he stated this loud and clear for all to hear it was yet another indication of how things will be, and are, different under the forthright Australian. Some will say that his words fuelled Italy’s fire however from where I’m sitting, like everything that Eddie offers up to the media, their sole purpose was to motivate and focus his squad.
So the obvious question is, did his side achieved their aim and deliver the ‘hiding’? With 5-tries scored and 0 conceded the answer is yes. England didn’t play beautiful rugby from the outset, instead they were embroiled in a tussle for 50 minutes and tried a touch too hard. However, once Jonathan Joseph intercepted Leonardo Sarto’s floating pass Italy’s bubble burst and England put their foot firmly on the accelerator.
Italy were always going to start well and their emotional anthem paved way for a resilient and gutsy opening-half in which they pulled more of the strings than England did. Michele Campagnaro asked the type of questions that we expected him too and before leaving the field Gonzalo Garcia was also having a stormer. Exactly like at Murrayfield half-time came at right moment for England in order for them to take stock of their initial efforts and refocus. Once again the players on the bench were critical in securing the result and in particular Danny Care shone. The scrum-half was the catalyst that pushed England’s tempo and it was his box of tricks and speed of distribution that allowed the back-line to flourish in the final half-an-hour.
There were others that turned heads too; Anthony Watson was sharp and keen for work and Jack Nowell was a work horse being the team’s top tackler. Alex Goode and Jamie George made the most of their late opportunities and Jack Clifford and Maro Itoje fitted seamlessly into the test arena. All of that said, it was the performance of Jonathan Joseph that should excite the nation the most. Jonathan is an individual with exceptional talent and after a quiet few months it was superb to see him confidently owning the 13 jersey and scoring tries for fun.
England’s head coach has a clear view on how to win test matches and that involves utilising a full squad, in his mind you have 23 players in a match-day squad for a reason. Under Eddie Jones those that are benched are not put there because they are not good enough to start, instead it is because their services will be best utilised in the latter stages of the game;
“Ones a starter and ones a finisher – in baseball if you are a good finisher then you got paid a lot of money. In rugby unfortunately it is seen as a second choice but in our eyes it is not a second choice.”
In short England’s Italian outing went exactly as they’d envisaged that it would. Italy were stoic and gutsy for 50 minutes however they couldn’t maintain it and when they had expended all of their energy England raised their game and delivered the hammer blows. Of course there are things to work on, notably England’s lineout which reverted back to being shaky and early on they left opportunities out there. However, when it comes down to it England are yet to concede a try, the only side in the Championship to have a clean slate after two rounds, and by the end their attacking output had taken another step forward.
With Ireland and Wales next on the fixture list there are bigger tests to come however with two matches gone, and two weeks of solid training ahead of them, Eddie Jones’ side is well positioned. The fundamentals are in place, their confidence is coming back and this England team will continue to improve with every moment that they spend together.