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Saturday, October 2, 1999 Published at 20:10 GMT 21:10 UK

Flying start for awesome England

Matt Dawson touches down to score England's first try of the World Cup

England 67-7 Italy

Jonny Wilkinson scored 32 points as England fired a timely warning to their World Cup rivals with a hugely impressive victory at Twickenham in their first game of the tournament.

The England team coach Clive Woodward: "We're trying to play a game which I think is right"
But although the 20-year-old fly-half claimed an England points-scoring record, this was anything but a one-man performance.

Wilkinson's try, five penalties and six conversions were merely the product of a superb all-round team effort.

[ image: Jonny Wilkinson: Metronome kicking brought him a record haul]
Jonny Wilkinson: Metronome kicking brought him a record haul
Matt Dawson was the real star of the show with a virtuoso display at scrum-half, having been handed the No.9 jersey following Kyran Bracken's withdrawal through injury.

But there were also eye-catching performances from wing Austin Healey, No.8 Lawrence Dallaglio and the rest of England's mobile forwards, who dominated their Italian opponents and proved they are one of the most ruthless packs in the competition.

The one moment of concern on an excellent day for England came when centre Will Greenwood was forced off after just 30 minutes.

The Leicester star, who has only just come back into the team after being sidelined by a long-term groin problem, pulled up clutching his hamstring and was replaced by Jeremy Guscott.

England's coaching team later described the problem as a slight hamstring strain - but he may still be doubtful for the clash with New Zealand next week.

All-out attack

The home side put coach Clive Woodward's expansive philosophy into practice as they looked to run the ball at every opportunity.

[ image: England No.8 Lawrence Dallaglio stands firm in the face of the Italian defence]
England No.8 Lawrence Dallaglio stands firm in the face of the Italian defence
Italy started brightly enough and dominated the opening exchanges, only to find themselves 3-0 down after kicking machine Wilkinson slotted his first penalty chance of the match.

Then with eight minutes on the clock Dawson claimed his eighth try for his country, with a piece of typically bludgeoning play.

The scrum-half sent a high-ball deep into Italian territory towards Healey - and although the wing fluffed his kick on, he picked up the ball and fed Dawson, who shugged off three tackles before barrelling over the line.

England's goal-kicker Johnny Wilkinson: "There are no easy games"
With England in dominant mood, Italy lapsed into a string of indiscretions, which Wilkinson punished with three more penalties to put the home side 17-0 ahead.

Just when England looked like running away with it, Diego Dominquez gave them a timely warning against complacency with Italy's first points of the tournament.

The Argentinian-born fly-half showed neat anticipation to intercept a loose pass from Dawson in the England half and sprint through the defence to score under the posts.

[ image: Phil de Glanville dives over to join in the try-fest]
Phil de Glanville dives over to join in the try-fest
Dominguez then landed the conversion to take him past Gavin Hastings into third place in the list of all-time international point-scorers.

England piled forward again and, after strong running from Perry and Dan Luger, Richard Hill exploited a lack of Italian cover on the left wing to take Dawson's shrewd pass and race up the blind-side for his side's second try.

The lead was stretched further in first-half injury time. Another brilliant run from Dawson again cut the Italian defence to shreds and the ball was recycled to Phil de Glanville, who finished with ease.

Slick passing

Inventive England looked to get the ball out to the wings as quickly as possible and a concerted passage of attacking play brought two more tries in quick succession after the break.

This time it was Healey's turn to take on Italy single-handed as he drew three men before floating a pass to full-back Perry who finished in the right-hand corner.

[ image: Determined wing Dan Luger takes on the Italian defence]
Determined wing Dan Luger takes on the Italian defence
And two minutes later Healey was again at the heart of the action, taking the ball on the right flank after surging play from Martin Johnson and Dallaglio, then chipping on for Wilkinson to score his first try in international rugby.

England's passing was slick throughout the game - and was no better demonstrated than with the sixth try. The ball was moved swiftly and inventively along the line by Dallaglio, de Glanville and Neil Back, whose flicked pass sent Luger in to romp over the line.

Back was not left off the scoresheet for long, though, as the flanker was driven over the line by his fellow forwards for his 10th international try.

Replacement Martin Corry crashed over in injury time - and it was apt that Dawson created the opening with a subtle reverse pass.

The result provided England with a record victory over Six Nations newcomers Italy and will give them a huge boost ahead of the big test against the All Blacks.


England: Perry, Luger, Greenwood, De Glanville, Healey, Wilkinson, Dawson, Dallaglio, Back, Hill, Grewcock, Johnson, Vickery, Cockerill, Leonard.

Replacements: Beal, Guscott, Grayson, Corry, Garforth, Rowntree, Greening.

Italy: Pini, Vacarri, Stoica, Martin, Zisti, Dominguez, Troncon, Arancio, Bergamasco, Giovannelli, Giacheri, Cristofoletto, Properzi-Curti, Moscardi, Pucciarelo.

Replacements: Mazzucato, Mazzariol, Mazzi, de Rossi, Checchinato, Castellani, Moretti.

Referee: Andre Watson (South Africa)

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