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England defeat Italy in NatWest 6 Nations opener

06 February 2018

Any fan knows to take the head coach's words with at least a bucket of salt, but it's true that the likes of Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Mike Brown will be missed when England play their first match against Italy. "I'm always optimistic. It's a knee injury, it looks like a ligament".

The widespread concern on Twitter shows just how serious the injury appears to be for Youngs, who played a vital role in the opening try.

Jones has tried to play down England's chances, even though he can still call upon the likes of fly-half Owen Farrell, by installing Ireland, who inflicted the only defeat so far on his Red Rose record when denying them a second straight Grand Slam in Dublin last March, as Six Nations favourites.

"England have big guys like Mako Vunipola, Courtney Lawes, Maro toje, Chris Robshaw and Ben Te'o, and we were beaten up".

The scrum-half was distributing the ball from the base of a ruck when he was tackled by an opposing player and went down in agony.

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Nevertheless, an Italy side where seven players were making their tournament debuts, while veteran Alessandro Zanni was winning his 100th cap, hit back with a 20th-minute try.

England were caught out wide for both of Italy's tries, with Jonny May's positioning left particularly wanting for Tommsso Benvenutti's try early in the first-half.

'I was really pleased with the effort today.

Flyhalf Owen Farrell, George Ford and Jack Nowell added one apiece and Farrell kicked four conversions and a penalty.

England moved to the top of the table, ahead of Wales on goal difference. The two meet at Twickenham on Saturday. "The tournament (is) only going to get better".

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Ben Youngs, England's scrum-half, leaves the field on a stretcher after injuring his knee in the victory over Italy.

Since 2010, Scotland have lost 15 of their 17 away games in the Six Nations, with their only two victories in that period coming against Italy.

"The starting 15 laid a fantastic foundation which allowed us to make a number of replacements and give a lot of players their debut and conserve some bodies for next Friday".

England was already 5-0 up by then and Anthony Watson scored his second try of the day as the golf cart carrying Youngs was still circulating the pitch. It's hard, hard, hard as our group contributed massively to the game, and we're sure of where we're going.

For Italy, under Irish coach Conor O'Shea, the goal remains one of self-respect and the need to improve on a desperate run of just one win in their last 20 Six Nations fixtures.

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England defeat Italy in NatWest 6 Nations opener