England labour to win over Italy in Rome

England could not live up to the high standards set in yesterday’s RBS Six Nations matches in beating Italy by 17 points to 12.

The game was painful to watch for long periods, with England preferring to kick possession away rather than run the ball. It was an odd decision, because on the rare occasion that they did move the ball through the hands, they actually looked dangerous.

Riki Flutey made a couple of breaks, as did England’s other outside backs, and they looked likely to score on several occasions. “Run it” we screamed, but kicking the ball was the preferred option, and England’s kicking from hand has still not improved.

England scored one try through Mathew Tait after some lovely hands from Delon Armitage and Ugo Monye, and it looked as if they would pull away, particularly when Martin Castrogiovanni was sin-binned.

But with 8 minutes to go, Mirco Bergamasco landed his fourth penalty to narrow the gap to 2 points, and the crowd scented a famous win. A Jonny Wilkinson dropped goal made things slightly more comfortable in the dying moments, but there weren’t really any high points for England.

It was expected that England would play a narrow game and look to frustrate England, but actually it was the Azzurri who played most of the rugby. They were infinitely better than they were last week against Ireland, and if they had won the game, nobody would have said they didn’t deserve it.

Steve Borthwick said at the end, “We created some fantastic stuff out there. There’s a lot of positives to take from the game.”

Jerry Guscott’s response to that was, “He’s watched a totally different game.”

We’ll bring you more reaction and opinion, with player ratings and other features, but in the meantime, leave us your thoughts on the game.

5 thoughts on “England labour to win over Italy in Rome

  1. I just won a bet ith an Italian guy and I feel embarrassed to take the winnings it was an awful perfrmance, completely lacking will or want to play rugby. England looked as thogh they had some cutting edge for a change. Flutey and Tait looked intrested and cueto and Monye wanted to get involved,even Wilko made some nice passes ut it was a fewbight moment in an endless darkness of slow hesitent play.

    Compared to Scotland-Wales and Ieland-France this looked so slow I felt ime was standing still. England ar gtting left behind. Even the azzurri seeed more intent on counter attacking than we id in the econd half, they had to.

    Armitage ws shocking, I was prayin to put Foden on the field so that we could retain some possession, but I don’t believe in God and I did’n’t believe for a second that Johnson would bring on such a player, so what is he doing on the bench. Instead we got anew set of forwrds to take the fight to the Italians started throwng to number 2 inthe lineout and shot a drop goal to top it off.

    This team has a bit of potential but as lng as the intinct is to play conservative then there is no point.

    Wilkinson has to go and peolple need o go for it.

  2. Why did all the pundits seem so convinced we were going to stroll it before the game? I certainly didn’t.

    This is nothing new – for some reason England always seem to reserve their worst rugby for Italy. The main thing Italy has always had going for them is a big strong pack – so what do we always always do – play 10-man rugby with lots of pick and drives and rarely change the point of attack. Take them on at their strength and ignore their weakness – genius!

    The last four times we’ve played them we’ve been pretty poor – especially the last two in Rome. We did at least fling the ball about a bit today but when we did there was an air of “right, we’ve ridden our luck now, let’s go back to Plan A” about it.

    It didn’t quite bad enough for a repeat of Brian Moore’s “Oh for God’s sake” outburst of 2008, but he can’t have been far off. After all, our gameplan was exactly the same.

    I agree with ronbraz about wanting to see Foden – didn’t someone say on here the other week that Foden had been promised some game time against Wales? Two games played, two crap performances, so where is he Johnno?

    If we really must kick a lot, can we not learn how to do it properly? The Springboks kick a fair bit of ball, but they kick for touch, or get it behind the opposition back 3 or have a lot of players chasing. You’ll rarely see an aimless kick.

    I think it was Hutch who said something on here about the Wales game being 80 minutes of his life he’ll never get back – exactly how I feel about today’s game. The thought of this team playing a four-game Autumn series is too depressing to contemplate right now.

  3. Rob and ronbraz, Foden was dropped from the bench for Mullan as Johnson said they wanted the option to bring on a whole new front row. Just reading that last week made me so incensed… he is the form player in GP, he is an incredible counterattacking player, surely he is the sort of player you want on the bench to bring on in a game against Italy?
    I had a bit of a rant on Ben Dirs blog on the BBC website earlier so wont repeat it all here but my main points were as below:
    1) All we did was kick. We had some excellent counter attackers, we brought Flutey back to create something yet every time we received a kick from the Italians (which was a lot) the first thing a player did was look long for where to kick rather than just look in front of him and see whether he could run. What annoys me the most is players like Monye, Armitage, Tait and even Cueto normally always look to see whether they can counter for their clubs, so the only logical conclusions to draw are either they have been told not to run and to kick or they are scared of being dropped so don’t want a penalty notched against them (I am sure the meticulous England management analyse every pass, tackle and penalty a player makes/gives in a game). The worry that they will be marked down for something has made them, to quote Guscott I believe, robots. Give them a free rein… let them do what they do best.
    2) My main gripe at the moment with England is being lied to by players and the coaches, do they not realise if we are watching the postmatch interviews we have watched the matches too? Being told everything is rosy, it just needs tweaking is frankly patronising. Would love to hear a player’s opinion on this in the next podcast. This might be endemic of the professional era though, there are hardly any characters left willing to actually speak their mind in case they upset their employers.
    Anyway, sorry for the rant, it is just ridiculously frustrating! England take 1 step forward and 2 back, and then try to tell us that isn’t the case! That is not to take anything away from the Italians who played a simple but highly effective gameplan that almost came off. Part of me hoped they would sneak it in the end, might force some changes in the set up… but that is for another time!

  4. Well what can we say. 2 played 2 wins.

    But after all can anybody tell me why I was so stupid to change my flight only so I could see this match? Never again.

    The win should have been more comfortible if Wilko did not miss the simple kicks. There is just 1 way to avoid the Italian “fighting rugby” and that is by running around them. I bet the French will get at least 3 tries against them. And 1 thing is for surre the Italians will never run more than 1 try against you in a game. Why all the kicking? It is really something these coaches like I think. Even in the Autumn Internationals people like Geraghty where given these orders. The best way to spoil talent is to adat this way of playing.

    Then the team. First the front 3. They where doing ok if you ask me although Cole had some tough times out there. Hartley was playing a good game and seems to settle himself well in the team. Payne ok for his ability. I must say that although the interview witrh Borthwick was the best joke of the year (is he blind?) he is playing a better and better as a captain. Stole some nice Line outs, made a few good tackles and was some kind of visible this time. On the other hand I thought Shaw played like an over the top veteran. No impact nothing. A Deacon lookalike.

    The try was decent, but what is Armitage doing all the time. He is such a gifted player but his talent is spoied the way he plays now. The 678 combination is solid but was not good enough this time giving away some penalties and Moody lucky to not be sinbinned. Nevertheless I still believe these guys are taking away a lot of the 2nd row weaknesses with their strength (with Easter as a lineout receiver as well!).

    Wilko…is this the end? Care..half as good as last week. 11/12/13/14…what can you do if every ball is kicked away?

    So I think Armitage can do what Foden can as well and is probably a safer bet under the high ball. I am afraid when bringing Foden in, he has to kick as well what makes him useless.

    But if my dream come true and we start running the ball again than Chris Ashton MUST be included. Nobody in the UK is such a support runner. Always giving you an option and lightning fast. Not the best “all-rounder” true, but very good in 2 specific parts of the game. By the way, he scored 2 again this weekend…

  5. I agree with james. As poor as this performance was, the more worrying aspect was Borthwick’s (in particular) insistence that he was pleased with so much of it! He suddenly seems to have become ‘media savvy’ in that very bland sort of way.
    So far as the game is concerned, I wish people would stop praising the Italians – they were awful. Even when they needed a try at the end they still kicked, and I don’t recall one occasion throughout the whole game where our line was threatened.
    Ok – so to England. We do actually have some decent players. I felt particularly frustrated because it seemed every time we decided to open it up, we looked dangerous. The obvious time to do that was from their aimless kicking, but instead we seemed intent on matching them ‘aimless kick for aimless kick’ – and I think we shaded that one too!
    I’ve seen a comment from Johnno today stating that it was our finishing that was disappointing – he misses the point. A conversion rate of 1 from 5 efforts is actually not that bad. If the 5 became 20 then we might have run in 4 tries. I am not an advocate of running the ball for the sake of it – there are certainly times when we need to kick, but we did that so poorly. Jonny has been great, but he needs to move aside now. Geraghty is not tight enough and Cipriani seems to have lost the plot. How about that kid at Quinns – Clegg is it? I’ve only seen him a few times (and he had a ‘mare’ at Gloucester at the weekend), but he seems to have the necessary attributes.

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