What’s hot and what’s not from the final round two game of the 2016 Six Nations
Jonathan Joseph scored a second-half hat-trick as England overcame Italy in Rome and moved into top spot in the Six Nations table, ahead of France on points difference. Eddie Jones’s team ran in five tries in all, George Ford and Owen Farrell also crossing. Their first-half performance was disjointed and underwhelming, but they managed to break clear of a determined Italian side in the last 30 minutes. The turning point came when Joseph scored under the posts after intercepting a poor Leonardo Sarto pass in the 53rd minute as Italy tried to attack from their own half. From then on, England were in control.
All-round skills – Last week it was Mako Vunipola, a prop, with the neat pop pass that set up Jack Nowell’s crucial try. This time it was brother Billy with the soft offload that allowed Owen Farrell to send George Ford in the corner for England’s first try. Jamie George provided another neat offload for Farrell to score under the posts.
Then we had wing Anthony Watson ripping the ball off Gonzalo Garcia in the tackle as well as having an influence at the breakdown. It just goes to show that in the professional game, both forwards and backs need to be able to develop these sort of skills.
Italian spirit – Italy players are known for getting emotional when singing their anthem and it was certainly the case here, Sergio Parisse looking particularly fired up. Yet their passion was allied with a new control to their game. Carlo Canna and Edoardo Gori dictated play from half-back with centres Michele Campagnaro and Gonzalo Garcia (while he was on the field at least) finding holes in England’s defence. They were keen to attack close to the gain-line and put pressure on their visitors, reaping the benefits of England’s ill-discipline. Whether Eddie Jones’s pre-match rhetoric provided Italy with extra inspiration, it’s hard to know, but they certainly played with more organisation and ambition than we have witnessed in recent years, though the interception try dented their confidence for the final half-hour.
Bench pressure – England were able to make changes by choice in contrast to Italy’s injury-enforced ones, and their replacements certainly made a difference. The arrival of Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford and Joe Launchbury saw England get more quick ball at the breakdown, Danny Care brought a spark from scrum-half, his clever grubber kick resulting in Joseph’s second try, while Joe Marler delivered aggression at the scrum and tackle area. The selection meetings ahead of the Ireland game should be interesting!
Ill-discipline – England’s penalty count must be Eddie Jones’s biggest concern after two rounds of the Six Nations – 13 here and 12 at Murrayfield. They allowed Italy to get a foothold in the game and on the scoreboard by conceding avoidable penalties – not rolling away after the tackle, hitting high, coming in at the side and so on. They need to tighten up discipline-wise going into the last three rounds, where they will face the championship’s better teams, or they are likely to be on the end of a defeat.
England’s lineout – The second biggest worry for England’s coaches will be the lineout. They lacked accuracy at the set-piece, perhaps overcomplicating matters when the simple call would have been more effective, and lost four on their own throw – a statistic that will not please Steve Borthwick. What can be achieved was evident in the build-up to Jonathan Joseph’s second try, a strong driving maul giving Danny Care the position to kick through for his centre to dab down. Unfortunately from England’s perspective, this sort of platform was not a common occurrence.
Italian injuries – Italy lost three players to injury within the first 32 minutes, with Alessandro Zanni and Gonzalo Garcia particular blows. Flanker Zanni brings huge physicality and work-rate while centre Garcia was carrying strongly and picking good lines before his departure. Their experience and nous was missed in the second period.
134 – The number of tackles made by England compared to 79 by Italy.
7 – The number of line breaks made by England compared to one by Italy.
65 – The number of metres made by Jonathan Joseph, more than any other player. Michele Campagnaro made 54 metres, the most of any Italian player.
17 – The number of carries made by Billy Vunipola, more than any other. Sergio Parisse made 15 for Itaky.
Italy: L McLean; L Sarto, M Campagnaro, G Garcia (A Pratichetti 33), M Bellini; C Canna (E Padovani 61), E Gori (G Palazzani 75); A Lovotti (M Zanusso 63), O Gega (D Giazzon ht), L Cittadini (M Castrogiovanni 59), G Biagi, M Fuser (V Bernabo 15), F Minto, A Zanni (A Steyn 31), S Parisse (capt).
Pens: Canna 3.
England: M Brown (A Goode 70); A Watson, J Joseph, O Farrell (A Goode 16-22), J Nowell; G Ford, B Youngs (D Care 55); M Vunipola (J Marler 48), D Hartley (capt, J George 70), D Cole (P Hill 70), C Lawes (J Launchbury 48), G Kruis, C Robshaw (J Clifford 63), J Haskell (M Itoje 55), B Vunipola.
Tries: Ford, Joseph 3, Farrell. Cons: Farrell 3. Pens: Farrell 2, Ford.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Man of the Match: Ben Youngs (England)
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