England head coach Eddie Jones slammed Italy’s tactics as his side suffered an almighty scare before maintaining their quest for a second successive Six Nations grand slam with victory over Italy at Twickenham.
The hosts were baffled by the Azzurri’s game-plan of not committing men at the breakdown, meaning no ruck could be formed, which in turn allowed Italy to interrupt England’s passing lines.
Italy led 10-5 at the break, although five second-half tries secured England’s first ever Six Nations bonus point and extended their winning run to 17 matches –16 under the stewardship of Jones.
“They parked the bus,” said the Australian. “I don’t want to be involved in games like that. I’d rather pick up my stumps, put them in my kit bag and go home. I don’t think it’s smart. If that’s rugby then I’m retiring.
“You just watched Trevor Chappell [who bowled underarm in a one-day international in 1981 to ensure New Zealand could not hit a six off the final ball] rugby. If you paid for your ticket, ask for your money back.
“I understand what Italy did and I’m not angry with what they did, I just don’t think it’s rugby.”
England’s next clash is against rejuvenated Scotland at Twickenham on 11 March where victory would see Jones’s side equal New Zealand’s record of 18 consecutive wins for a top-tier nation. Jones chose to fire an early shot across the Scottish bow.
“They’re already talking about coming down here and beating us,” added the 57-year-old. “When you’re confident, you have expectation. They have got to carry around the burden of Scotland’s expectation for the next two weeks.”
Italy enjoyed the better of the opening 20 minutes but the hosts marched into the lead as a solid maul allowed prop Dan Cole to power over the line, although Owen Farrell failed with the first of a number of missed kicks.
Fly-half Tommaso Allan reduced the arrears with a drop-goal and when his penalty crashed against the post Giovanbattista Venditti surged ahead of a dozing England defence to cross the line and give the Azzurri a 10-5 interval lead.
Scrum-half Danny Care and wing Elliot Daly calmed England’s nerves with a couple of quick-fire tries after the re-start, although Michele Campagnaro bulldozed his way through to take Italy to within two points at 17-15 on the hour mark.
Exeter flyer Jack Nowell gave England breathing space with a touchdown in the corner, and rounded off the scoring late on after centre Ben Te’o, on his first international start, crossed the line following a break from replacement prop Kyle Sinckler.