In a rather bizarre game dominated by interpretations of the law rather than the performance itself, England struggled to build any momentum in the first half before producing a far more impressive effort in the last 30 minutes.
Here we rate the entire 23 from one to ten:
1) Joe Marler
Early penalty conceded at the scrum after pressure from the Italian front row. This improved drastically in the second half and Marler contributed more in the loose with England beginning to build through the phases. 6
2) Dylan Hartley
Reliable as ever at the lineout, but England’s front row really struggled at scrum time in the first half. Hartley also showed tactical naivety when speaking to referee Romain Poite about Italy’s tactics of not engaging at the ruck. If a captain isn’t there to make tactical decisions as you go along then what’s the point? George must start against Scotland. 3
3) Dan Cole
Struggled initially at the scrum and gave away two penalties but was instrumental in scoring a textbook score as England drove over the line. Like Marler, Cole’s second half was unrecognisible in comparison to his first, with the tighthead getting on top at the scrum. The win against the head on 67th almost saw England score once more. 6
4) Joe Launchbury
His usual self despite England being lacklustre. A wonderful break early in the second half set up England’s best passage of play for the match. 8
5) Courtney Lawes
As good as always in defence and his carrying continues to improve. He and Launchbury are combining well in attack and were crucial cogs in everything good about England in the second half. 7
6) Maro Itoje
Won early turnovers for his side, stole lineout ball and put pressure on at the breakdown to give England a chance to effectively stay in the game. Besides a needless penalty for pulling a man down in the air at the lineout, he redeemed himself later with yet another turnover early in the second half.
A brilliant offload from Itoje set up England’s third try and the lock-cum-flanker really started to come into his own in the last 30 minutes with some impressive tackling, handling and awareness. 8
7) James Haskell
Was abrasive and physical in defence and when England had chances in attack, but asking the referee about how to combat Italy’s tactics at the ‘non-ruck’ was rather comical.
However, Haskell’s early power in the second half was integral in the build-up to his side’s third score. 6
8) Nathan Hughes
Had a rocky start: an early knock on followed by penalties given away when off his feet and for not releasing immediately after England had scored their first try helped keep Italy in the game. Hughes then gave away yet another penalty to send the Azzuri into half-time with the lead after their opportunistic try.
Hughes improved in the second half, but this was certainly not a vintage performance from the number eight. 4
9) Danny Care
Bamboozled by Italy’s early tactics, but showed his intelligence just before the end of the first half with his little break. An absolutely brilliant piece of quick thinking led to England’s second score and Care looked to be coming into his own before being hauled off in the third quarter. 6
10) George Ford
Given England’s limited amount of possession in the first half, Ford had little opportunity to show what he could do. In the second half Campagnaro ran straight through the fly-half, which ultimately was just not good enough for a test player. However, Ford’s delayed pass bought the time needed for England’s bonus point try. 4
11) Jonny May
Should have done more with England’s chance from Te’o but poor handling spoiled it. May contributed little to the game and will be under pressure for his spot from the in form Jack Nowell for next week. 3
12) Owen Farrell
A poor missed touch early on and holding on on the ground gave away an early penalty. Farrell’s wayward boot in diffcult conditions saw three missed conversions as well as a penalty on the 65th minute, although he did redeem himself when he finally nailed one in the 73rd minute.
It was a disappointing game for Farrell overall with the second five eighth not really imposing himself for most of the game. 4
13) Ben Te’o
A nice offload early on could easily have been a try if not for poor handling from May. Te’o showed his physicality in defence at times in the first half and as the second half built, the Worcester man’s confidence grew; he started to show off his offloading skills more and more and his try was just reward after a good performance despite England misfiring for the first half. 7
14) Elliot Daly
Beautiful hands to set up a chance to get some territory and a wonderful kick just after half time to put the Italians under pressure. Daly is a genuinely class rugby player whose natural flair for the sport seems to be on another level to his teammates in the back division. 8
15) Mike Brown
Solid as always but could have done more with Campagnaro bearing down on him for his try – although Ford must take most of the blame for that score. Brown generated momentum for his side from the back at times. 6
Aggressive in attack, powerful in the scrum, reliable at the set-piece and intelligent throughout his time on the pitch, George is now a better all round hooker than captain Hartley. How much longer can he be sat earning splinters from the bench? 7
Caused Italy problems in the loose and was powerful at the set-piece. Vunipola could well start for England against Scotland. 7
Someone needs a word with this lad: props are not supposed to be able to run like that. A superb break for Te’o’s score. 7
Some nice breaks – what would have happened if Brown had not been taken out early? Like Care, Youngs struggled to deal with Italy’s non-engagement tactic at times and caused sloppy errors, but he was also heavily involved in many of England’s best moments in the second half. 7
Some lovely hands from the Exeter playmaker and showed what he can bring to England’s attacking game. What are the chances of a Slade/Te’o combination in future? 7
Finished his first opportunity and was utterly fantastic in taking his second. He must surely start against Scotland. 8
Tom Wood and Jack Clifford: Not on long enough to have had much of an impact.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
On this week’s Oval Office Podcast, Rob Henderson tells us about Ireland’s 12 potential Lions, Paddy Butler identifies weaknesses in the French game plan, Mako Vunipola discusses the challenge of facing Tadhg Furlong and historian David Toms relives Ireland’s 2007 clash with England in Croke Park.
Read More About: ben youngs, Courtney Lawes, dan cole, danny care, dylan hartley, eddie jones, eddie jones news, england rugby, england rugby news, george ford, Henry Slade, jack clifford, Jack Nowell, James Haskell, joe launchbury, joe marler, Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje, nathan hughes, tom wood, Top Story