THE BLOG

Job Done In Italy - England Rugby

15/02/2016 14:07 GMT | Updated 14/02/2017 10:12 GMT

There are two ways of looking at England's 40 - 9 victory over Italy. One is to focus on the opening 50 minutes and pick holes in the side and the other is to take the match as a whole and focus on the manner in which Eddie Jones' side accelerated away from the Italians. I'll let you hazard a guess as to which viewpoint I'm about to write from...

Of course there is no getting away from the fact that before Jonathan Joseph's interception England had a spot of work to do and were being tested by the Italians. Michele Campagnaro was asking the type of questions that we expected him to and certain areas of England's game just weren't sharp enough. The lineout misfired and was unrecognisable to the pristine and clean output that we saw last weekend and as a collective they couldn't truly find their rhythm. However when they did, they delivered Italy with the 'hiding' that their head coach had implored them to do so.

Once again we saw an early use of the bench and every member that entered the field contributed in upping the tempo of the match in order to drive the result. In the final moments of the game England were playing at a faster tempo than when they started and that is exactly what they need to be doing. Owen Farrell's final try was the perfect illustration of this and as they continue to develop as a squad I expect that this characteristic, of continuing to up the tempo, will become a trademark. This is due to the depth, and type of talent, that is contained within the squad.

Turning back to the match at hand, Danny Care had a tremendous impact and in my eyes was the catalyst for the victory. Over the past year we've seen Danny push himself back to his very best form, and when he is on the money he's one of Europe's most threatening 9s. In Rome it was his box of tricks and his speed of distribution that allowed the backs to flourish in the final half-an-hour.

Naturally there were others that turned heads too; Anthony Watson was sharp and keen for work and Jack Nowell was the team's top tackler leading the way in defence with Owen Farrell. Alex Goode and Jamie George made the most of their late opportunities and Jack Clifford and Maro Itoje fitted in seamlessly to the test arena. All of that said, it was the performance of Jonathan Joseph that excited me most. Jonathan is an individual with exceptional talent and after a quiet few months it was great to see him making those trademark outside breaks, confidently owning the 13 jersey and scoring tries for fun.

Of course it isn't all about the number of points scored, the fact that Italy were unable to get on the scoresheet, in terms of tries, is another huge positive. In a very short time Paul Gustard has this England squad firing defensively and as he further embeds his principles this area of strength will only improve.

The fact is that this match went exactly as Eddie Jones thought that it would; Italy were stoic for a period of time but couldn't sustain it. Jonathan Joseph's interception was the sucker punch and when it came down to it the home side couldn't match England's squad depth. Eddie Jones had asked his team to act and play like the superior side and ultimately they did so.

I'm sure that they'll be a few of you thinking that I'm taking an overly optimistic viewpoint given England's next opponents. However I'm not analysing whether this performance would have beat Joe Schmidt's Ireland because the tactics and game plan to conquer them will be different. Instead I'm praising the execution of an 80-minute performance that secured a 31-point RBS 6 Nations victory and provided a victorious platform to lead into two productive weeks of training.