“We had a middling autumn series and have a list of injuries as long as your arm”.
Jones says his team had adapted well to the 23-year-old’s less physical, more pace-based game. 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.
Full-back Stuart Hogg returns to the Scotland side and Ali Price gets the nod at scrum-half as they eye another win against Wales after beating them for the first time in 10 attempts previous year.
“Sam’s a good young lad with a great set of skills”.
After extensive rehabilitation he has clearly done enough in the England camp to impress Jones, and will partner Owen Farrell on Sunday, winning his ninth England cap but making only his second start. England are odds on favourites to leave Rome with a victory from their title defence opener, but in a Six Nations widely tipped to be among the closest yet, securing the bonus point could be critical.
However, Italy captain Sergio Parisse says they will “fight in every single match” and are building to “something special” – and it will certainly take something special to beat England, with some bookies giving the home side lowly 12/1 odds.
There was to be no repeat this time around and England raced into an early lead as some slick passing following a lineout on the left deep in Italy’s 22 saw the ball reach Watson, who turned over in the far corner.
The Exeter Chiefs back-rower also assisted a late Jack Nowell try, which came following a brace from winger Anthony Watson and one try apiece for Owen Farrell and George Ford.
Openings at both ends continued to surface after the break with try claims turned down either side of a successive Farrell penalty.
‘The tournament is only going to get better and we go again next week at Twickenham, there will be 82,00 people, they’ll be absolutely pumped and we’ll be pumped to play in front of them’.
“We will enjoy the win and start looking ahead tomorrow”, Jones said. When Italy committed England players to the tight-exchanges, space opened up out-wide which Conor O’Shea’s side exploited.
Nowell added: “For Simmo to play as well as he did – he has been doing that for us all season at Exeter – for him to put an England shirt on and show what he is about on a big stage is awesome”. We were completely dominant and that’s English rugby.