Oval Talk

Impressive England accelerating on upward curve

Oval Talk

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England's failure to rack up 50-point winning margin on Saturday should not be allowed to overshadow a superb performance that capped a hugely encouraging Six Nations championship - despite Ireland being crowned champions.

England have played some sumptuous rugby throughout the campaign and showed the same sense of style and attacking intent in their 52-11 thumping of Italy.

They came into the game knowing that Ireland's +81 points difference could well be decisive in the destination of the championship, and blew away a resolute Italy defence with some slick passing and powerful forward play.

Bearing in mind that their last three wins in Rome had come with four, five and four-point margins, it was an emphatic victory that underlined the growing quality of Stuart Lancaster's side - and squad.

"I don't think any team has won here by this scoreline, and we've done it on the back of a Sunday game against opposition (Wales) that emotionally and physically took a lot out the players," Lancaster told reporters.

"It's a young team with an average age of 24."

Lancaster's young side are playing the sort of free-flowing rugby that is not usually associated with England, offering real encouragement that they have a realistic hope of winning next year's World Cup on home soil.

They came to Rome needing to win by more than 50 points - if they were to have any impact on Ireland's match, and demonstrated a desire and ability to impose their game on their hosts.

It was only a tendency to rush their play in good attacking positions that prevented them scoring even more than the seven tries they did chalk up.

Leonardo Sarto's 68th minute intercept try also put paid their hopes overhauling a point difference gap of 49 separating them from Ireland.

"We've made huge progress. We played this game last year at Twickenham and won 18-11 by kicking six penalties," said Lancaster.

"When you put it into perspective we've made great progress. We haven't done everything right in every game, but our intent to attack, the quality of our defence and our set-pieces have been excellent.

"I'll look back at this campaign irrespective of what happens tonight with huge pride and great confidence in the England team going forward."

The next test of their development is coming in June, with three tests against New Zealand, who won all 14 matches they played in 2013, including a tight one over England at Twickenham in November.

A good showing there would be a confirmation of the positive signs that have emerged from the Six Nations.

"On the back of two emotional wins we challenged the players emotionally to get to right place to be able to give it a good crack and try to bring the championship home. They rose to that challenge outstandingly well today," said defensive coach Andy Farrell, whose son Owen was again superb from the tee, landing all eight of his goal kicks.

"There's another challenge coming up that they're looking forward to, there's no doubt about that. Because they've proved time and time again that when something's put in their way they rise to the occasion."

Reuters

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