Men's Six Nations 2018 England vs Italy

Courtney Lawes talks to the press

Courtney Lawes talks to the press

Shortly after, Youngs went down with what looked like a nasty knee injury after his left leg appeared to get trapped in the ruck.

If Wales have enjoyed the most spectacular start to this year's tournament, there was enough sharpness and intent about England's first outing of the year to suggest next Saturday's tribal collision will not disappoint.

Red Rose head coach Eddie Jones has picked Ben Te'o at No.13 instead on Jonathan Joseph for the match.

Simmonds has been a standout performer with the Chiefs for the past two seasons, but his chance with England has arrived largely because of injuries to Vunipola and Nathan Hughes.

Eddie Jones' team will need to be more authoritative in all that they do; although their scrum was impressive, their defence less so at times.

Nevertheless, an Italy side where seven players were making their tournament debuts, while veteran Alessandro Zanni was winning his 100th cap, hit back with a 20th-minute try.

However, three second-half tries from Ben White, Tom Parton and Ben Loader as well as two conversions from Grayson on his first start stretched the lead and although Italy were awarded a late penalty try England sealed the win. I thought it was a really good start.

Watson finished off two flowing moves in the first 10 minutes as England took quick control but Italy reduced the arrears with a superb effort when Allen's looping pass set up Benvenuti for a converted try.

That argues a degree of consistency but, with the 2019 World Cup in Japan slowly coming into focus, it is time for England to step up even further and show just how good they can be.

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"We always knew it was going to be a tough game, they played exceptionally well and full credit to Italy".

Beating the All Blacks remains the real acid test but a hat-trick of Six Nations successes, a feat that has not been achieved before, would do just nicely this spring.

England's Owen Farrell takes a penalty kick.

England dominated the opening stages, and were ahead through Watson's third minute try.

"We let them into the game a bit with individual discipline lapses but, in general, everything was positive".

However, there are clear signs of improvement under coach Conor O'Shea despite Italy's continued problems in defence.

After 24 in succession, England victories over Italy could be defined as something of a formality. "We'll train tomorrow, have Tuesday as a recovery day and we feel like we'll be ready by Friday to face Wales", he said.

England are still missing several key players, including number eight Billy Vunipola, who has a broken arm, and suspended duo Joe Marler and James Haskell.

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