Six Nations: Italy v England

Eddie Jones's hat-trick chasing side begin their title defence at the Stadio Olimpico

Patrick Madden Sun, Feb 4
LIVE: Six Nations: Italy v England

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  • Good afternoon!

    Welcome to our coverage of England's Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome.

    How are the heads?

    Ireland's Grand Slam dream was on life support in a sodden Paris last night, but now it's alive and kicking again thanks to the right boot of Johnny Sexton.

    Today Eddie Jones's side are set for a slightly less fraught beginning to their title defence, as they take on the Azzurri under perfect blue skies.

    Italy ruffled a few feathers at Twickenham last year, with their refusal to commit to rucks exposing England's flimsy grasp of the rules of the game.

    You feel Conor O'Shea will need to have something equally cunning up his sleeve this afternoon if his side are to have a sniff.

    We'll be bringing you all of the action from the Stadio Olimpico, as the opening weekend of the 2018 Championship concludes.

    Come on!!!

  • TEAMS:

    Italy: Minozzi; Benvenuti, Boni, Castello, Bellini; Allan, Violi; Lovotti, Ghiraldini, Ferrari, Zanni, Budd, Negri, Giammarioli, Parisse. Replacements: Bigi, Quaglio, Pasquali, Biagi, Mbanda, Gori, Canna, Hayward

    England: M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), B Te’o (Worcester), O Farrell (Saracens), J May (Leicester); G Ford (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester); M Vunipola (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), J Launchbury (Wasps), M Itoje (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins), S Simmonds (Exeter). Replacements: J George (Saracens), A Hepburn (Exeter), H Williams (Exeter), G Kruis (Saracens), S Underhill (Bath), D Care (Harlequins), J Joseph (Bath), J Nowell (Exeter).

  • England's quest for an unprecedented third Championship in a row begins this afternoon, but it's hard to escape the feeling Jones's focus is already turned to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

    He already has the makings of a side who can seriously challenge for the Webb Ellis Cup. Owen Farrell is arguably the world's best player at the moment, while the limitless Maro Itoje should continue to flourish in this year's Championship.

  • While they aren't quite as decimated as Wales, England have injury worries of their own (pass the violin). It's a shame Billy Vunipola will miss the tournament through injury (albeit not for Ireland) - the exciting Sam Simmonds starts at number eight this afternoon.

    Ben Te'o has pipped Jonathan Joseph for a place at outside centre - expect hmi to run plenty of hard lines off Farrell's shoulder.

  • For Italy meanwhile, it's hard to envisage anything other than another wooden spoon campaign. Sergio Parisse remains their talisman but at 34-years-old those great bones are starting to creak.

    Alessandro Zanni is back in the Azzurri XV for the first time since March 2016, and he earns his 100th cap. A great milestone but it says a lot about the talent italy have coming through.

  • Unfortunately England are decked out in white and not banana yellow.
  • It's an absolutely blinding day in Rome.
  • Anthems done, the stage is set.

    George Ford gets us underway!

  • 1 min: Ford tries a short kick off but Italy secure it well. Good early rumble from hooker Ghiraldini before Violi box kicks down the line. Good kick chase and Parisse forces Brown into a knock on - Italy scrum on halfway.
  • 2 min: Ominous early set piece, England winning the scrum penalty after good pressure from Cole. England find touch inside the Italian 22.
  • Hartley hits Itoje at the lineout. They move it and bring Te'o into play for his first big carry. The visitors have space out wide, nice loop between Farrell and Ford who finds May, May feeds Watson on the right wing and he scoots over.

    Farrell's conversion hits the post.


  • 6 min: Testing kick sent up and Boni spills it. English possession in midfield, they run a few dangerous phases but then Zanni reads a pass well and pinches it. Allan kicks ahead and Brown is under big pressure but he recovers well.
  • 7 min: Good spell for Italy, carrying hard at England. Benvenuti makes good yards on the right and then Zanni absolutely bounces Cole. It's all one off carries though and England push them back before Allan is forced into kicking.
  • 9 min: A glimpse for May on the left, kicking ahead and racing onto it but Benvenuti covers well. Play is stopped for a nasty looking knee injury to Ben Youngs.
  • 10 min: Stretcher is on for Youngs, he's replaced by Danny Care.
  • 11 min: Youngs leaves the field on a golf buggy and play is restarted with an England scrum on the left.
  • Easy as you like. England move it right and there's a break in midfield from May, he feeds Watson who sears down the outside, slips a tackle and dives to score with a fantastic one-handed finish.

    Farrell misses the conversion.

    13 MIN: ITALY 0 ENGLAND 10

  • 14 min: A theme is emmerging - Italy running a series of exhausting carries and being forced into a kick, with England picking their opportunities to run it. Watson is penalised for tackling a jumper too early - Allan kicks to touch just shy of the 22.
  • 15 min: Ghiraldini hits his man and Italy move the ball to Bellini, who spills it. The ball went backwards and the hosts retain it, but they can't make any real impact on the gainline. Again, they eventually opt to kick, but it's a good one from Allan, stitching it in behind May and into touch.
  • 17 min: Hartley finds Lawes and Italy are instantly pinged for collapsing the maul. Farrell sends it down the touchline - poor discipline from the hosts.
  • 18 min: Excellent work from Parisse holding up Brown on halfway and Italy win a penalty. Along with Hartley, Brown looks a bit jaded in this England team - surely won't make the World Cup.
  • 20 MIN: ITALY 0 ENGLAND 10
  • TRY ITALY!!!!!!
  • Great scores from the hosts. They win a scrum on halfway, they move it left and Bellini combines with Boni to break down the touchline. They keep the ball alive and have men over, Allan picking out Benvenuti on the right with a glorious miss pass. The winger runs onto it like a steam train and gets round to score near the posts.

    Allan converts - game on.

    22 MIN: ITALY 7 ENGLAND 10

  • 23 min: Benvenuti claims the restart and is tackled in the air by May - his opposite number probably still smarting after being skinned for that try.
  • English scrum on the 22 in front of the sticks and they stretch Italy both ways, Vunipola with a lovely turn and pass to Farrell. England getting very quick ball look left where Farrell straightens up and cruises over to score, the Azzurri cover not able to scramble across fast enough.

    28 MIN: ITALY 7 ENGLAND 17

  • 29 min: Italy under the cosh. Good hands from England, Te'o deftly finding Brown on the left but he's tackled as he bursts into the 22. The visitors are up to 12 phases when Itoje gets isolated on the floor and he's turned over, good work.
  • 30 MIN: ITALY 7 ENGLAND 17
  • 32 min: Vunipola turns over the ball brilliantly on the right but then England cough up possession. Good ball retention from the hosts under pressure and they earn a penalty on the 10-metre. Allan kicks for touch inside the English 22 - big chance.
  • 33 min: Zanni claims the lineout and England steer the Italian maul into touch - good work from Lawes. Italy will rue not taking the three points.
  • 35 min: High tackle from Brown and Allan finds a good touch inside the English 22.
  • 36 min: England look to drive the Italian maul into touch but Parisse takes control and carries well. Good play from the Italians fizzing the ball crisply to the left, Beni finding Minozzi who is just held up.
  • 37 min: Italy have the penalty and they tap it quickly, moving up to the five-metre and trying to puncture England with the pick and go.
  • 38 min: Good, hard carrying from Italy and they have a penalty on the five after Vunipola gets his hands in.

    This time they will take the three points - good kick from Allan.

    39 MIN: ITALY 10 ENGLAND 17

  • The teams are back out for the second half!
  • 41 min: England set up a maul from the restart and grind down Italy, moving infield to their 22 where Itoje earns his side a penalty. Farrell sends it to touch on the 10-metre.
  • 43 min: Simmonds takes his eye off the ball and Italy have a scrum on their 10 which is solid enough. They run a couple of loose phases before Allan kicks. Care then sends up a box kick which is brilliantly won by May. Care then uses the space well with another box kick and it takes an excellent bit of skill from Ghiraldini to save Italy, great cover and pass.
  • 45 min: New man Quaglio pinged for coming in at the side and Farrell sends the penalty into touch.
  • 46 min: Nearly the hat-trick for Watson. England win the lineout and move it left, Lawes making a big carry. Care then pops to Watson on a brilliant line but he is well tackled by flanker Negri and the can't quite get the ball down as he reaches for the line. Suspicion of a forward pass as well.
  • 47 min: England put the squeeze on and win a scrum penalty under the posts.

    Farrell knocks it over.

    47 MIN: ITALY 10 FARRELL 20

  • 49 min: Deft hands from Allan and Bellini is through! He has no support so is tackled by Brown but then blue shirts follow in.
  • TRY ITALY!!!!!!

  • Boni thunders over to score after a neat pivot between Allan and Parisse, but the outhalf's final pass is shown to by forward after consultation with the TMO.

    50 MIN: ITALY 10 ITALY 20

  • 52 min: England lineout on halway and there's an infringement as Itoje jumps to take Hartley's poor throw. Farrell kicks for a good touch.
  • England set the lineout maul and Italy spoil it well, but Simmonds emerges through the middle and shows stunning pace to motor over the line from the 22.

    Farrell converts.

    54 MIN: ITALY 10 ENGLAND 27

  • 55 min: Italy aren't lying down and scrumhalf Violi skins Watson on the shortside and has Bellini in support on his inside. England recover but the hosts are in possession inside the England 22.
  • 56 min: Good ball retention from the Azzurri and they have a penalty advantage. Violi switches the play with a kick and Watson does well to gather it ahead of Bellini. The penalty goes into touch on the five, great platform.
  • 57 min: Italy win the lineout and set the maul, grinding up to the line where Itoje helps stop them just short.
  • TRY ITALY!!!!!!
  • Italy have men over on the left, there's a big misspass played to winger Bellini who takes the ball from a standing start but has the pace and strength to get over in the corner, holding off Brown. It's checked with the TMO and it is so close - but the winger has got it down just before his knee slides onto the whitewash.

    Allan misses the conversion.

    59 MIN: ITALY 15 ENGLAND 27

  • 60 min: England straight back on the front foot but good work from replacement Bigi sees Itoje penalised on the Italian 22.
  • 63 min: Italian scrum on the 10-metre and they get good ball, moving it quickly left with Benvenuti carrying well. Good play over the ball form Robshaw to win a penalt. Italy still seem to have plenty of gas in the tank though.
  • 65 min: England penalty on the 22 and it's nudged into the corner. New man Jamie George - a far superior hooker to the one he's just replaced - hits Kruis and England maul. Italy shunt them into touch but illegally so. Another five-metre lineout.
  • 66 min: Great lineout steal from Parisse and Allan clears well up the left.
  • Another ncie score from England. They get good ball off the top and Joseph runs a good line in midfield. Italy's defence is stretched and Ford finds Farrell on a good line, he returns the ball and Ford has an easy finish.

    Farrell converts.

    70 MIN: ITALY 15 ENGLAND 34

  • 71 min: Sharp break from Joseph on the right. England looking dangerous, lovley offload off the deck from Nowell to Itoje who finds Care but he's hauled down just short. A try seems inevitable but there's a loose pass and Benvenuti intercepts, finding Boni who break but is quickly hunted down.
  • England try on the Italy 22. They move it left where Nowell is chopped down in midfield by Benvenuti. Quick ball for England and Simmonds sees half a gap and motors through it - great pace again.

    76 MIN: ITALY 15 ENGLAND 41

  • England really going for the throat now with Italy ragged. They stretch the hosts left then a big pass is thrown out to Simmonds on the right, he pops a pass to Nowell on his outside who finishes well.  

    Farrell misses the conversion.

    79 MIN: ITALY 15 ENGLAND 46

  • Job done.
  • Right, thanks for joining this afternoon - see you next weekend!