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FT: Italy 19-23 England

LATEST ACTION (all times GMT)

By Ben Dirs

606: DEBATE
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"We are on the right end of the scoreline. It's not easy at all against Italy. All teams will find that. They are full of talent, they can attack, defend and have power as well. They are a great side. We almost threw it away but we didn't."
Jonny Wilkinson on BBC One

1616: Italy go on a lap of honour, and that was England's smallest ever winning margin over them. England were truly appalling in that second half, truly appalling...

"We deserved to lose that match, we struggled to beat Italy for God's sake. There are some huge questions over the fitness levels of our team because that's twice now in the second half they have buckled badly and had no energy left."
Scubar on 606

80 mins: Italy fluff their line-out and Cipriani clears England lines. And there's the final whistle - not many questions answered for England, in fact there are more question marks now than there were after the Wales game.

77 mins: Penalty for Italy and Bortolussi kicks for territory. England really tottering, just one little nudge from Italy and they could very will lose this fight. Brian Moore has awarded Italy skipper Parisse the man-of-the-match award after his 50th cap. Good choice, he's been everywhere today.

75 mins: TRY Italy 19-23 England Deary, deary me...Cipriani attempts a cheeky chip, substitute Picone charges the ball down and touches down under the sticks. Whatever doesn't kill you can only make you stronger...

73 mins: Flood puts a good hit on Mirco Bergamasco and hacks clear, but Haskell is turned over. Brian Moore is apoplectic on the telly - "THEY'VE KICKED IT AWAY AGAIN! FOR GOD'S SAKE!" I reckon he might bite someone's face off in a minute, he really is that angry about this England display.

70 mins: Kaine Robertson is set free by a long pass in midfield from Sgarbi and only a desperate tap-tackle from Noon prevents a try in the right corner.

68 mins: Masi sends a hospital pass out to Mauro Bergamasco, and the Italy flanker does well to get the ball back under a big hit from Sackey. England have been truly awful in this second half - another overlap blobbed down the right flank.

65 mins: Balshaw fields the high ball, but Lipman knocks on in the tackle. Brian Moore is doing his nut on the telly - "WHY CAN'T THEY JUST KEEP THE BALL FOR FIVE MINUTES??!!" Off goes Wilko and here comes Danny Cipriani. Let's see if he can wake England up here. He'll need a Defibrillator I reckon.

63 mins: England haven't just gone off the boil, they're absolutely stone cold at the moment. Cracking kick from Bortolussi into the corner, but the Italian line-out is burgled by Borthwick and Wigglesworth clears. Off goes Easter with an injury and on comes Luke Narraway.

61 mins: Some might call it patient build-up work, others might call it laboured from Italy in the backs and it ends with Italy kicking the ball away again. Noon, patched up and now wearing no number on his back, is back on for Tait. Outside centre Canale is off for Sgarbi, while hooker Festuccia is on for Ghiraldini.

59 mins: On comes Wigglesworth of Sale and off goes Gomarsall of Harlequins. First international cap for The Wiggler.

57 mins: PENALTY Italy 12-23 England England just cannot get their hands on the ball, but here's a driving maul. Lee Mears, on for Regan, dummies and goes from the rear of the scrum. Mears offers a bit more mobility than the 36-year-old Regan and Wilkinson wellies over another three points for England.

54 mins: PENALTY Italy 12-20 England Vainikolo loses the ball under a big whack from Mauro Bergamasco and Italy win a penalty after England drag down a maul. Regan mouths off, and Brian Moore says the following on BBC One: "He'd be better off running around a bit more and doing some more work in the loose." Bortolussi makes it four from four and England have got to get a handle on this, there's still plenty of spunk in this Italian side.

50 mins: It's Turnover Central at the Stadio Flaminio, but that's a sweet take and offload from Parisse, who's head and shoulders above anyone else in a blue shirt today. Big hit from Wilkinson on Robertson, and Italy are simply not creative enough to open up England in midfield. Tait is on for blood victim Noon, and he's got a few minutes to show what he can do.

47 mins: Silly from number 8 Easter, coming in from the side and giving away the penalty. Bortolussi kicks for territory after deciding it was out of his range.

44 mins: PENALTY Italy 9-20 England Payne is penalised for not binding - it's quite a ding-dong between him and Castrogiovanni, I suspect we might see a spot of knuckles before the day is out. Bortolussi, who's looked shaky in defence, knocks over his third penalty of the day.

41 mins: Wilkinson gets the second half under way and Mauro Bergamasco punches through the England defence. However, England turn the ball over, but once again they fail to make the most of their chance. Balshaw races clear, but his flat pass is spilled by Sackey and the move breaks down.

1525: Martyn, Southampton (see below), you need to get the down the DVD shop and get yourself a copy of The Day Today..."riding no hands! No need for that..." John Inverdale, Jerry Guscott and Jonathan Davies are getting pelted with particularly pointy looking paper aeroplanes. Guscott is calm under fire, Inverdale looks slightly scared.

"How can you call Flood's dive showboating? He made damn sure he wasn't going to do a Shame Williams and hit touch. Just 'cos you couldn't do that..."
Martyn, Southampton, via text

"Bar Jonny, England don't have one world-class player in the 22. Tait, Volcano and Cipriani maybe one day. Shocking state of English rugby given we have the best league in the world. We need a foreign player cap."
J Canary via text

"Jonny Wilkinson is a world-class player and form is temporary and class is permanent. If you play badly, you are going to get criticised, but if you play well, people will applaud you. The vision and execution for Sackey's try was superb."
Jonathan Davies on BBC One

HALF-TIME: There's the half-time whistle and that was a pretty solid performance from England, although not as clinical as perhaps it should have been. Italy still have a sniff, England should have bitten their noses off.

38 mins: Nick Easter appears to be put off by the nearby Andy Gomarsall and drops the ball from the restart. But Italy's backs are really struggling to ignite and phase after phase breaks down because of poor basic skills. Balshaw plays a bit of silly sausages, flinging out a long pass to no-one in particular in his own 22, but Sackey mops up and kicks clear.

37 mins: PENALTY Italy 6-20 England
Wilko's taken a whack, but the England physio goes through some stretching with him and he's OK to continue. Italy prop Castrogiovanni is penalised for turning in and he looks ruddy annoyed about it. It's 45 yards out and it's bang in front and Wilkinson makes it look easy.

33 mins: Wilkinson tries to find Vainikolo with a cross-field Garryowen but the Gloucester man is unable to pouch the ball. However, Noon picks up the loose ball, but is unable to feed Flood, who would have been in under the posts. England need to be a little more clinical to close this game out.

31 mins: PENALTY Italy 6-17 England
England earn a penalty after Ulster captain Carlo Del Fava grabs England's Steve Borthwick at the line-out and Wilkinson punishes Italy from range.

28 mins: Italy win a penalty and Bortolussi, deciding it's out of his range, kicks for territory. It's a little bit laboured out back for Italy, however, and England win a penalty themselves for holding on after a big hit from Payne. Wilko clears his lines.

26 mins: Nice hands from Italy as the ball is turned over, but Josh Sole, imagining his has a man outside him, can only fling the final pass into touch on the halfway line. Not straight from Regan and Italy win the scrum.

"Am I hearing wrong? Has Jonny 'Has Been, But Never Was' Wilkinson just played a major part in another flowing attacking, try-scoring move? And, to make things worse he makes the conversion. Obviously he is out of his depth!"
CS on 606

23 mins: Bortolussi breaks for Italy, but that's great work from Easter, turning the full-back on the floor and earning England the put-in.

22 mins: Wilkinson misses with a penalty attempt from the right-hand side - not sure if he was put off by a klaxon in the crowd, but that would have given me the right hump.

18 mins: Bortolussi tries a drop-goal from range, but it drops short and wide. And here comes The Volcano - Balshaw chucks a cheeky shimmy for a midfield half-break and the ball pops out to Vainikolo. The winger shoves off a brace of tackles, loses a boot before feeding Haskell, who is dragged just short of the line like a gazelle meeting its maker on the plains of Africa.

15 mins: TRY Italy 6-14 England
That's England's second try, and it's Bortolussi at fault. The Italian full-back tries to clear his lines, his kick is charged down by Jamie Noon, he attempts the reverse flick to Wilkinson, Jonny offloads to Toby Flood and the England centre dives over in the corner and touches down one-handed. Bit of showboating, no need for that...Wilko adds the extras from the right-hand touchline and that's 1000 points in an England shirt.

12 mins: Italy skipper Parisse is at the centre of everything, and that's a fine take from the England restart. England earn their first line-out, but Italy are swarming all over them. That said, England should have scored - they had a three-man overlap there.

11 mins: PENALTY Italy 6-7 England
Number 8 Parisse shows some footballing skills, cutely chipping through, and Vainikolo gets his first touch. Unfortunately, it's a costly one, as Italian attackers swarm him and he's penalised for not releasing the ball. Bortolussi slots the three points and Italy remain very much in touch.

9 mins: Italy try a bit of adventure, flinging the ball left, but there's one loose pass and the move breaks down and England win the scrum. Flood shows and goes in midfield, but Masi drags him down after a half-break.

5 mins: PENALTY Italy 3-7 England
Bortolussi pings over three points from just inside the England half after Matt Stevens finds himself on the wrong side of a ruck.

3 mins: TRY Italy 0-7 England
Italy have the first penalty of the day, England players not rolling away. But England pick up the ball for only the second time in the match from the resulting line-out and who should dazzle us with a touch of magic? That's right folks, Jonny "He's Finished" Wilkinson. Chip over the top and a gossamer off-load and Sackey shows the Italian defence a clean pair of heels from 25 yards out. Wilkinson boots the extras, and you can tell his team-mates are overjoyed with that bit of play. There's one in the eye for great swathes of the English press.

1 min: Italy kick off, Gomarsall collects and punts it straight back down the park.

1429: God Sava the Queena is in the can and here comes the far more sprightly Italian anthem and the crowd goes mad. Good anthem that, possibly the best. According to the programme notes, Kaine Robertson is giving away five and a half stone to opposite number Lesley Vainikolo. It hurt just writing that. Have a look at our live stats if you want.

1425: Steve Borthwick leads out his England team at a sun-drenched Stadio Flaminio. Brian Moore reckons it's the sort of day "that makes you want to conquer Carthage." Not sure about that, although I wouldn't mind loafing about and getting a couple of bottles of red down my neck. And here come Italy.

"Steve Borthwick, England's captain in the absence of the stricken Phil Vickery, leads his troops in. Fair to say he doesn't look in the mood for any kind of messing about."
BBC Sport's Phil Harlow in Rome

"I spoke before to Steve Borthwick about the captaincy as there was a doubt about Phil Vickery since Thursday. He is ready to take over. Jonny Wilkinson is not skipper but it is nothing to do with performance. He has enough to do at fly-half and with focusing on his game. Steve Borthwick has done a great job for Bath and we felt it was the best thing to do.

"There has been a positive mood in the camp this week. It is an understatement to say that we were very disappointed with what happened in the second half against Wales and we are very determined to make sure that it is consigned to history."
England coach Brian Ashton on BBC One

"We're expecting whoever runs out for England will be very well-organsied and know what they've got to do. We're playing against a World Cup finalist and we knew this would be our toughest match along with France."
Italy coach Nick Mallett on BBC One

1418: Peter, Paul and Mary - Benjamin Ani has just put City 2-0 up at Old Trafford. A day of upsets? England beware.

"We've got the Italian marching band here now to crank the atmosphere up another notch. Great drumming. A little bit reminiscent of The Obvious Child by Paul Simon."
BBC Sport's Phil Harlow in Rome

"It's a great honour and Brian Ashton had me on standby, so I was ready for it. It's going to be a big challenge and I'm looking forward to it."
England skipper Steve Borthwick on BBC One

1409: Bit of chat from Lesley Vainikolo on BBC One - he has a touch of the Frank Bruno's about him, especially when he laughs. If you're having a bad day, just sit back and thank your lucky stars that you're not Vainikolo's opposite number in Rome, fellow Kiwi Kaine Robertson. Pity poor Kaine...

"Something tells me that legendary Italian scrum-half Alessandro Troncon is wishing he could come out of retirement one last time. Troncon, now on Italy's coaching staff, is lining up at inside centre as they run through some training moves and clattering into defenders like nobody's business."
BBC Sport's Phil Harlow in Rome

1356: "England's players are all back in the dressing room now while Italy are going through some handling drills under the watchful eye of assistant coach Alessandro Troncon. Head coach Nick Mallett, all suave in an expensive-looking suit, watches from a few yards away and offers occasional words of advice."
BBC Sport's Phil Harlow on 606

"Slogger (see below) England were a clueless rabble without Jonny Wilkinson, especially in the World Cup. It is odd that results suddenly improved with him back in the side."
CS on 606

1355: Apropos of nothing in particular, how good is this story on the BBC News website:

"A Florida lawyer has been charged with assault for over-vigorously shaking the hand of a fellow attorney. Kathy Brewer Rentas, 49, shook the hand of Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Keene so hard her arm was nearly ripped out of its socket, a court official said. Moments before, Ms Keene successfully prosecuted Ms Brewer Rentas' husband." A truly astonishing nation, and a very fat one.

"England hooker Mark Regan is practising line-out throws with Graham Rowntree while seated on one of those bouncy Swiss ball things. God alone knows why. From the rear he looks like an overfed child about to go round the garden on a Space Hopper."
BBC Sport's Phil Harlow in Rome

"Wilkinson has not gone from hero to zero in one game, he has been shocking for ages. Disrupting the play of the backs by kicking far too much and negative play at fly-half. We could have won the World Cup if he was more adventurous."
slogger on 606

1348: England have lost 15 of their last 16 away games apparently. The solitary victory during that time was a 31-16 victory in Rome two years ago.

1340: We were just discussing in the office great pieces of commentary. Get yourselves on YouTube - "This is Gareth Edwards, a dramatic start...WHAT A SCORE!" Ruddy magnificent, although that was definitely a forward pass from Quinnell..

"I got 10 at 25-1 on England for the wooden spoon. COME ON ITALIA!"
BOB on 606

"Jonny Wilkinson is now going through a remarkable goal-kicking routine, setting the ball up about three metres from the try-line and about 10 metres in. He's kicking ball after ball from this almost impossible angle and, though it's difficult to tell from my seat on the halfway line, a fair number look to be going straight through."
BBC Sport's Phil Harlow in Rome

1321: Jonny Wilkinson needs four points to become the first man to reach 1,000 for England. That's not a bad little record and, frankly, I can't believe the shellacking he got in the press this week. Italy are still looking for their first win over England - they've had 13 previous attempts.

England's four previous Six Nations visits to Rome have seen them amass a total of 185 points, and they average just over 46 points per game. The minute's silence in memory of the 23 people who died in the Munich air disaster has just been impeccably observed at Old Trafford, which was heartening. Liking that United kit as well - old schooly.

"To be honest I hope England lose today. They are already going backwards. Wilkinson is past his sell-by date. Time for Cipriani."
slogger on 606

"Most of the England players have been out for a stroll round the pitch and a bit of very gentle jogging. Jonny Wilkinson is going through a kicking session with Jon Callard and seems to be sticking with the end-over-end - rather than spiral - technique." BBC Sport's Phil Harlow in Rome

"Maybe another 'shock' defeat is what England need to enforce the changes necessary for them to move on positively."
WWW on 606

"I've just been informed by a friendly BBC engineer that I am sitting right underneath the effects mics they have set up to capture the crowd noise at the Stadio Flaminio. I've been asked not to shout during the match, so if you hear any swearing during the TV coverage, it will be someone else..."
BBC Sport's Phil Harlow in Rome

"The Stadio Flaminio looks at absolute picture on a beautiful day in Rome. It's sunny and warm and the pitch is as firm as you like. I accidently stepped on it - just next to the try-line - as I tried to find my way to my seat and was swiftly moved on by an Italian bouncer who looked as if he should be in their front row this afternoon."
BBC Sport's Phil Harlow in Rome

1300: Afternoon ladies and gents. It's England in Rome on the second weekend of Six Nations action, and Brian Ashton's boys have some serious rebuilding to do after last Saturday's shambolic second half against Wales. The big news is that skipper Phil Vickery spent most of last night on the dunny and is out with guts ache. Bath's Matt Stevens comes into the front row, while lock Steve Borthwick takes over as captain.



SEE ALSO
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Wilkinson praises England display
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Italy v England player ratings
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Six Nations photos
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Andy Gomarsall Q&A
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Galon starts in only Italy change
06 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
England suffer double injury blow
06 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Ashton dismay at England collapse
03 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 16-11 Italy
02 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
England 19-26 Wales
02 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Vickery hopes for Hobson remorse
26 Mar 07 |  Bristol


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