England 31-14 Italy: English pack shows strength to secure Steve Borthwick's first win
Tries from Jack Willis, Jamie George, Ollie Chessum, and Henry Arundell secured the bonus-point 31-14 victory for England over Italy; it is Steve Borthwick's first win since taking over as head coach; Italy's Marco Riccioni and Alessandro Fusco crossed for the visitors
By Megan Wellens at Twickenham Stadium
Last Updated: 13/02/23 6:13am
England secured their first Six Nations win of 2023 with a dominant 31-14 victory over Italy at Twickenham to get up and running under head coach Steve Borthwick.
England's forwards laid the platform as they got off to a strong start in the first half, Jack Willis and Jamie George using the driving maul to their advantage as they barrelled over. Ollie Chessum also got his name on the scoresheet from close range as Italy's Lorenzo Cannone was sent to the sin-bin, giving the home team a 19-0 lead at the break.
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England 31-14 Italy - Score summary
England: Tries: Jack Willis (13), Ollie Chessum (28), Jamie George (37), Penalty try (50), Henry Arundell (71). Cons: Owen Farrell (14, 29)
Italy: Tries: Marco Riccioni (44), Alessandro Fusco (63) Cons: Tommaso Allan (45, 63)
Italy fired back at the beginning of the second half through Marco Riccioni but their revival was short lived, with a penalty try in the 50th minute for England, plus a sin-binning for Simone Ferrari, giving Borthwick's side the advantage once again.
From there, Italy hit back through some brilliant Alessandro Fusco footwork but a late diving Henry Arundell try in the corner sealed the win for England and kickstarted their Six Nations campaign after last weekend's loss to Scotland.
Story of the game
In their attempt to bounce back from a 29-23 Calcutta Cup defeat last weekend, England got off to a flying start with their new-look backline, Owen Farrell's kick in the sixth minute producing an early opportunity for Max Malins in the corner only for some brilliant cover defence from Edoardo Padovani stopping a near certain try.
The breakthrough then came in the 13th minute as England were awarded a penalty in Italy's 22, the driving maul from the lineout causing the Azzurri all sorts of problems as Willis found the space to dive over, Farrell then adding the extras from the tee.
Italy then threaded together a good period of pressure but England stood strong in defence and got their reward, a sin-binning for Italy's Cannone for infringing at the maul creating the space for Ellis Genge to throw a sublime pass and send Chessum leaping over in the 28th minute.
The big change for England was Marcus Smith being dropped to the bench, with skipper Owen Farrell moving to fly-half as one of three changes. To facilitate Farrell's shift from inside centre to No 10, Exeter Chiefs centre Henry Slade was brought into midfield after his recovery from a hip injury, as was Bath's Ollie Lawrence, with Joe Marchant dropped to the bench.
Italy made two changes, with Edoardo Padovani coming in for Pierre Bruno on the wing and Marco Ricconi then coming in for Simone Ferrari at tighthead prop.
England thought their lead had increased again four minutes before the break as Jack van Poortvliet raced through to score, but it was ruled out for obstruction in the build-up. George made up for it just moments later as he used England's driving maul to his advantage to dive over for a try of his own, Farrell missing the conversion for the first time in the game as the hosts headed in at half-time comfortably in control.
The second half started with a scintillating attack from Italy that saw them finally rewarded in the 44th minute, Riccioni using the penalty advantage from a high shot to charge through and score, with Tommaso Allan adding the extras.
However, after a tense 10 minutes, England got the try that secured the bonus point through a penalty try as the driving maul caused damage once again, Italy's Ferrari being sent to the sin-bin for collapsing it from the side.
Sloppy play crept in from both sides at the game entered its final quarter, but Italy were the side to take advantage and gain the territory as Fusco showed some brilliant footwork to fly past three England defenders and dive over in the 63rd minute.
Despite another mini-fightback from the Azzurri, England came again in the 71st minute, this time through Arundell in the corner. The replacement winger finished off some slick play from replacement scrum-half Alex Mitchell with a diving finish to secure the 31-14 win, Borthwick's first as head coach.
What they said
England captain Owen Farrell believes Sunday's display at Twickenham was evidence of a team progressing as they gave lift-off to the Borthwick era.
"In terms of a performance, it felt better. It felt like a step forward, as it would be a week on in our new journey," he told ITV Sport.
"There's still a lot to get better at, but it's a step in the right direction.
"We're trying to learn how [the new coaching ticket] wants us to play, and that starts with making sure we're fighting for each other, and build a togetherness on the pitch. Fight for each other for 80 minutes.
"We were more on top of that this week."
England centre Ollie Lawrence, named player of the match, speaking to ITV Sport...
"I think it was important today for us to make a big step on last week.
"Steve [Borthwick] said to me: 'You need to get us on the front foot,' that was my job today. To get us that quick ball.
"We're rebuilding as a team. We're nowhere near the finish product yet but we're all believing in where we're going as a team.
"We just need to keep getting better and better."
England head to Cardiff on February 25 to face a struggling Wales who are yet to get a win in this year's championship (4.45pm). For Italy, a home clash awaits against Grand Slam hopefuls Ireland (2.15pm).