England earned their first win under Steve Borthwick yesterday with a 31-14 victory against Italy in the Six Nations, but the head coach insisted his side have a lot of improvements to make if they’re going to return to the top of the sport.
Two years after suffering a significant knee injury in the same fixture, the outstanding Jack Willis scored on his return to the national team while Ollie Chessum darted over for his first international try.
Elsewhere at Twickenham hooker Jamie George crossed the whitewash and Henry Arundell notched on his return from injury, while England were also handed a penalty try by New Zealand referee James Doleman.
England ‘taking steps forward’
The Azzurri got on the scoreboard though Marco Riccioni and Alessandro Fusco tries as well as a pair of Tommaso Allan conversions.
“We took some steps forward and that’s an important thing to recognise,” Borthwick said. “We have plenty of areas to improve upon.
“I think we left some chances out there that we should have taken, our ball speed could have been a bit quicker, and ultimately we conceded a couple that we wouldn’t want to.
“So there’s always things to work on but ultimately it was a couple of steps forward.
“I think the nature of the game tactically, when you watch what Italy do when the game opens up and they bring their pace into it, they make real dangerous threats.”
Italy looked balanced and challenged throughout but they were no match for England, whose driving maul and scrum dominated throughout the match.
Bruising forward play
All but one of England’s tries came through bruising forward play but Borthwick’s team looked to have had much more control over the phase play with Owen Farrell at No10 and man of the match Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade in the centres.
But the hosts side lacked a clinical edge against an Italy side who ran France close in the opening round of the Championship.
When Smith eventually came on for the final 10 minutes, Slade made way for the Quins fly-half; Farrell shifted to centre with Lawrence moving to No13.
“We will pick a team for the way we want to play for the game against the opposition,” added Borthwick, whose team have a week off before facing Wales.
“We want to build a squad here that is a squad where players can go in and go out but at the centre of it the team keeps a high level performance and that’s what we want to work towards.”