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Six Nations 2024: Italy 24-27 England – The visitors come from behind to secure a narrow win in Rome

Six Nations 2024: Italy 24-27 England – The visitors come from behind to secure a narrow win in Rome

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England achieves a difficult victory over Italy

Guinness Six Nations: Italy vs England

Try: Garbisi, Alan, Ewan cons: Allan 2, P Garbisi pencil: now

Try: Daly, Mitchell cons: stronghold pencil: Ford 5

England dominated the second half to come from behind and start their Six Nations campaign with a win in Italy.

Alex Mitchell's try after the break overturned a narrow deficit before George Ford's boot edged England's lead.

The Azzurri had threatened with a first win over England as Alessandro Garbisi and Tommaso Allan scored Elliot Daly's goals for the visitors.

Monte Ioani scored a late consolation and earned a losing extra point in Italy's narrowest defeat to England.

Meanwhile, the visitors' victory ended a run of four defeats in the Six Nations opener.

Jamie George took over the captaincy while manager Borthwick also made his first five England caps for the first time since seven players won their first caps against Scotland in 2012.

Fraser Dingwall and man of the match Ethan Roots impressed from the start before Finn Smith, Chandler Cunningham-South and Emmanuel Faye-Wabuso began their Test careers on the bench.

England will host Wales in the second round at Twickenham next Saturday, while the Azzurri will travel to defending champion Ireland the following afternoon.

New England's era stumbles to a winning start

Before the ball was kicked, George suggested that England would show more intensity in attack, compared to previous teams who have worn the red rose.

It was proven that the prostitute's words had some substance, in intent if not in delivery. The visitors threw the ball away early with winger Roots carrying tirelessly and winger Tommy Freeman cutting down the cutting lines throughout the afternoon.

But the defence, under the guidance of new specialist coach Felix Jones, was vulnerable in the first half and showed glimpses of England's direction.

Jones had coached the South African defense to successive World Cup victories and wanted his new England players to impose an attacking strategy on the Azzurri's forwards.

Instead, Italy took an early lead when Juan Ignacio Brix broke down the line before half-volley Alessandro Garbisi dipped under the posts.

Freeman latched onto a superb pass from Freddie Steward to give Daly a quick pass as England hit back but it was undone again moments later in a seemingly simple wrap-around move in midfield.

Image source, Getty Images

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Tommaso Allan sprints forward to score Italy's second try

Brix was key again as he received a flat pass and played it back to Paolo Garbisi behind him before the flowing move finished with Allan – who became his country's top points and try scorer in the Six Nations – under the posts.

But the second half was better for Borthwick.

Mitchell showed all his senses to wriggle free and snip as England quickly responded to their coaches' words after the break. The defense also tightened and the blitz began to take effect as Italy's quick comeback was forced inland and into heavy traffic.

It meant the Azzurri failed to score a point in the second half until after the 80th minute when Ioane burst wide with the game already lost, but opponents Wales next week will certainly pose a more sustained test for Jones and his England defence.

Beginner opportunity

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Ethan Roots, Chandler Cunningham South, Finn Smith, Fraser Dingwall, and Emmanuel Faye Waboso pose after England's win

More than half of England's starting lineup was different from the one that lost to the Springboks in the World Cup semi-final in October.

Owen Farrell's decision to make himself unavailable resulted in his long-time friend and colleague George being elected captain by Borthwick.

The international retirements of Courtney Laws, Ben Youngs and Jonny May, injuries to Manu Tuilagi and several foreign players ineligible for selection meant that the team was a balanced side of experience and youth selected to face a side that had lost their last 29 matches in Roma.

New Zealand-born Roots was the most prominent of the five new faces and often found himself throwing the ball into the air to rattle the blue wall, while Freeman starred in his fourth international appearance and is looking to step in and work for himself.

Cunningham-South was brilliant off the bench and made a late run down the left while Faye-Wabuso, known for his powerful running, made an excellent tackle near the right touchline which impressed his team-mates in the closing stages.

England are likely to rely heavily on youth in the coming weeks when injuries, which have already ruled Marcus Smith and Ellis Genge out of action in the Eternal City, begin to appear.

But the early signs for Borthwick and his staff are promising.

“I'm glad we passed the challenge.”

England coach Steve Borthwick: “It's good to start the tournament with a victory. I think we will build ourselves throughout this tournament and improve as a team.

“When you start looking now, it's almost a contradiction because we're playing against an Italian team dominated by Treviso players, who play together week in, week out.

“And you're seeing an English team with five players for the first time, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, and it was.

“There is a lot to work on, but I am glad we have overcome this challenge.”

'Not good enough'

Italy Captain Michele Lamaro: “It's always difficult when you're so close and you can't win. We played a good first half.

“We need to improve 100% in some aspects of the game, because obviously it's really difficult when you need to defend a lot and we need to build pressure during the game.

“Overall, it was the case 20 minutes into the second half when we struggled to get out of our own half.

“Now we need to think about Ireland next week. It's not good enough frankly. We need to press and we need to build on this performance.”

Formations

Italy: now; Pani, Brix, Minoncello, Ioani; F Garbesi, Garbesi; Fischetti, Lucchesi, Ceccarelli, N. Cannone, Rosa, Negri, Lamaro (captain), L. Cannone.

Replacements: Nicotera, Spagnuolo, Zilocchi, Zambonen, Izcor, Zuliani, Varni, Mori.

England: steward; Freeman, Slade, Dingwall, Daly; Ford Mitchell. Marler, George (Captain), Stuart, Itoje, Chisum, Roots, Underhill, Earl.

Replacements: Dunn, Obano, Cole, Coles, Cunningham South, Kerr, F Smith, Vey Waboso

Match officials

to rule: Paul Williams (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Nick Perry (Australia) and Nika Amashukele (Georgia)

Tmo: Brett Cronan (Australia)

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