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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Six Nations: England get title defence off to winning start in Rome

Eddie Jones' team open campaign with a 46-15 win away over Italy, with Watson and Simmonds scoring two tries apiece

Anthony Watson of England is tackled by Sebastian Negri of Italy during the Six Nations match at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Anthony Watson of England is tackled by Sebastian Negri of Italy during the Six Nations match at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

England scored seven tries on the way to an emphatic 46-15 win away to Italy as they began the defence of their Six Nations title in style on Sunday.

Winger Anthony Watson got England off to a flying start with two early tries and No 8 Sam Simmonds also bagged two. Owen Farrell, George Ford and Jack Nowell added one apiece and Farrell kicked four conversions and a penalty.

The score was harsh on Italy who resisted bravely until a flurry of England tries in the closing minutes.

The winners of the last two wooden spoons were refreshingly positive and replied with two tries of their own from Tommaso Benvenuti and Mattia Bellini with Tommaso Allan kicking a conversion and penalty.

England, who have won all 24 games against Italy, lost scrum-half Ben Youngs in the first half when he suffered a knee injury.

The victory came at a cost, too, as Ben Youngs was forced off in the ninth minute with what appeared to be a serious knee injury inflicted when the joint buckled awkwardly during a tackle.

The Leicester captain screamed in pain and was driven from the pitch by the medical cart, enabling Danny Care to make his 77th Test appearance and equal Matt Dawson's record as England's most capped scrum-half.

Youngs' distress points to a significant lay-off and having relied on just two players in the position for virtually his entire reign, Jones will finally have to summon a third option.

"They played exceptionally well," England head coach Eddie Jones said. "It was a tough game of rugby but we ran away with it in the end.

"We let them into the game a bit with individual discipline lapses but, in general, everything was positive."

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Watson finished off two flowing moves in the first 10 minutes as England took quick control but Italy reduced the arrears with a superb effort when Allen's looping pass set up Benvenuti for a converted try.

England went in with a 17-10 half-time lead after Farrell scored and converted a try and Allan replied with a penalty for Italy.

Italy's Tommaso Boni had a try chalked off for a forward pass following a video review early in the second half.

Simmonds then raced away to scored England's fourth try although Italy, who lost 10 out of 11 matches last year, continued to cause trouble and again reduced the arrears as Bellini forced his way past Mike Brown to score in the corner.

The referee confirmed the points after the video replay showed Bellini just stayed inside the touchline.

But England floored the hosts with three quick tries in the closing minutes from Ford, Simmonds and Nowell to seal an emphatic victory.