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SIX NATIONS RESULT - ITALY 12-17 ENGLAND
Ho hum, call me a romantic, but I don't prescribe to this "win is a win" philosophy. I wouldn't mind a bit more than that. Meat and potatoes fills a hole, but it's never going to make the heart sing. See ya.
From Andy Mac, Cardiff, via text on 81111:
"What a pile of tosh! What planet are 'team England' on! Get out the excuse book Johnson!"
From nick on 606:
"After the last 80 minutes of poor quality, ad frankly boring rugby, thank god the Super League show highlights have just started! As an England fan I am just so disappointed."
From patthebathfan on 606:
"Would Jason Robinson have kicked so much possession away? No, he would have run it back. I like Delon Armitage as a player and sometimes you have to kick, but today we saw England ran out of ideas."
From Garuthal via text on 81111:
"Wilkinson was poor today and the pack were sluggish. We need to inject some pace into things."
From Mark via text on 81111:
"Stop moaning! Beaten an Italian team on a good day in their backyard and blooded a couple of new front rowers... a good day boys, well done!"
From Ray via text on 81111:
"How many years will I have to watch England spend most of the match kicking to the opposition? Borthwick's comments after the game were an embarrassment. Can you imagine an All Black captain taking positives from a match like that? If that was Johnson's game plan, he has to go."
England captain Steve Borthwick:
"Obviously we want to win all our games by as big a margin as we can, but we did some fantastic stuff, we created chances but didn't take them - credit to Italy for the way they played, they were very tough and resilient. In some aspects of the game we did very good stuff - Delon Armitage and Ugo Monye made some great breaks, there are a lot positives to take from this game."
From Applemask on 606:
"The problem is obvious. Fifteen England players, no England team. When the likes of Cueto, Flutey, Tait and Monye had the chance, they showed us what we're missing. There are good players in the team, but no structure or gameplan."
From Rich, London, via text on 81111:
"At least the Slam is still on... who am I kidding? The French are going to demolish us. I need a drink."
From trebell on 606:
"Would it have better in the long run for England to have lost? Make a real appraisal of the future of English rugby an essential?"
From gerrardswhiskers on 606:
"We'll have to do a lot better than that against Ireland and France. The better team lost and you can't say that many times when we have played Italy in the past."
FULL-TIME: Italy 12-17 England
England's scrum is turned over, before Italy throw the dice once more, attacking from deep. But they lose the ball and Hodgson throws it into touch, and that, ladies and gents, is that.
Hodgson is on for Care at scrum-half, five minutes on the clock. Masi joins the line and half breaks through, but a promising attack comes to nil because of a knock-on. Easter picks up and goes - backwards. McLean with another fine high take, before Borthwick suggests Referee Berdos should brandish a card, which is a little bit distasteful. Reminds me of the old Wade Dooley story when he got laid out by a Frenchman: when he finally came round and climbed to his feet he grabbed the referee by the lapels and said: "Please don't send him off..."
75 mins: DROP-GOAL Italy 12-17 England
Cueto is released by Care before Steve Thompson, on for Hartley, goes on a burst. Wilkinson
gets in the pocket and bangs over the drop-goal.
There is a part of me, the naughty part, that wants Italy to win this. England have just been spirit-crushing for the most part, although you have to say Italy have been very good. Steffon Armitage of London Irish is on for Lewis Moody.
72 mins: PENALTY Italy 12-14 England
Italy back to their full complement as Castrogiovanni canters back into the fray. Italy make strides down the right flank, before shipping left and winning the penalty. England hanging on for dear life here, it doesn't get more dismal than this for an England fan. Mirco Bergamasco
slots it and England are on the ropes and reeling.
Not straight from Hartley at the line-out, before it all gets even more bizarre as McLean goes up-and-under with a penalty. Penalty to Italy, as Lewis Moody is pinged for taking McLean out in the air. Boos rebound around the Stadio Flaminio, England creaking, but there's no card for Moody.
Cole and Shaw off for Wilson and Deacon for England. Nice from McLean, slipping a couple of tackles before straightening and making a dent in the England defence. Cueto takes a risk and it pays off, as he carries the ball out of his own 22. Not enough pace though, and he's eventually snaffled.
64 mins: PENALTY Italy 9-14 England
Canale comes on the switch, but there's no getting through this England defence at the moment. England off-side, Nick Easter the villain, Mirco Bergamasco the hero with three more points. The hosts not out of this yet, England not really making the most of their man advantage.
Twenty-two-year-old Worcester prop Matt Mullan is on for his first start, he replaces Tim Payne at loose-head. Care fumbles at the back of a line-out.
59 mins: PENALTY Italy 6-14 England
Line-out on the five metre line for England, and Italy go long and win the penalty. Castrogiovanni is sin-binned for being off his feet and going straight over the ball, and Wilkinson has another penalty attempt. Over it goes, Italy surely broken now.
Borthwick puts his opposite man off at the line-out before charging down the defensive kick. Italy under pressure, and Monye spots a gap and slides through it. He's unable to offload, despite having inside and outside runners, and England go left and eventually kick the ball away. Wilkinson down with an injury, but he's OK.
Zanni does well under a high Wilkinson kick before slipping the tackle of Monye. Tait with the sledgehammer kick, and England can attack this Italian line-out...
Tebaldi balloons a kick straight into touch, but Italy nick the line-out. Italy kick it away, before Armitage kicks too long...
Gower with some trickery down the left flank. England win the ball back, but it's pretty aimless stuff to be honest, Martin Johnson's side struggling to bounce into any sort of groove. Easter is driven backwards, before Care gets the ball away and then goes on a snipe... Tait tries to put Flutey in, but it's forward. Ambition though...
Italy come roaring back, and that's old-school hands down the line. But England turn it over and Tait hoofs the ball clear.
46 mins: TRY Italy 6-11 England
Craig Gower is short and left with his penalty attempt. Very bitty this, Easter going lateral before straightening up. England finally crack the nut - they keep the ball in hands, the ball goes left to Monye, who manages to skip through one tackle before offloading to Tait, who finishes well. Blimey, Wilkinson's ballooned that conversion attempt miles left, it's like he's wearing ski boots.
McLean, who has more than a hint of the Mr Hydes about him, runs the ball back at England, but England turn it over and Cueto kicks the ball away... and now Monye... high tackle from Flutey, and Italy win the penalty...
No changes at half-time, and McLean of Italy gets the second half under way...
From trebell on 606:
"Italy won't even be tired by the end. Had we run at them for the whole half they'd be shattered by now."
Former England centre Jeremy Guscott on BBC One:
"I think it's the total fear of failure and fear of going against what your coach has told you. I'd like the players to react to what they see in front of them rather than being robotic."
Ed via text on 81111:
"I don't think I've ever seen a team ignore the obvious so blatantly. Every time England run the ball they make ground, so why do they keep kicking?"
HALF-TIME Italy 6-6 England
Not great that from England, although you have to say Italy were very good. I just don't understand the England tactics - on the few occasions they've attacked, they've created chances. But they're still far too happy to kick possession away. Play "in the right areas" by all means, but sometimes "the right areas" can be from your own territory. Much to be done.
40 mins: PENALTY Italy 6-6 England
England attack from deep, and guess what? Something comes of it. Armitage pins back his ears before scissoring with Flutey, who scythes through the Italian defence before slowing up to draw support and throwing off a couple of tackles. Moody takes the ball on, Italy are penalised and Wilkinson levels things at the break.
Former New Zealand scrum-half Justin Marshall on BBC One:
"England are kicking them ball and not dragging any of the Italian players into the game to create space out wide. England need to bring the centres into the game. They need to see more of Flutey and Tait on the ball."
Former England hooker Brian Moore on BBC One:
"Monye had another Hollywood dive there. He's beginning to look like a footballer."
Moody and Cole carry forward, before England have their pocket picked by Castrogiovanni. Moody down now, Shaw looks to be OK.
Gower will be loving this, an old Kangaroo sticking it to the old foe. Italy are wry, spry and crisp 'n' dry at the moment. Simon Shaw isn't, he looks in trouble at the moment, his left shoulder looks to have give out.
35 mins: PENALTY Italy 6-3 England
Italy earn a penalty bang in front, England not releasing the man once again... Rome rises as Mirco Bergamasco kicks Italy ahead...
Tebaldi with a fluffed pass, but he does well to recover, stepping through a couple of tackles and retaining the ball. More mindless pinging and ponging, and what happens? Italy when the penalty at the end of it. Whatever happened to the old mantra "don't give the ball away"? Or am I just a dinosaur?
Italy have turned the ball over, but England have nicked it back... and then they give away a penalty and Italy clear their lines.
Care to Cueto from the back of the line-out. England make strides down the right, before Tait goes right, ships it to Armitage, before the ball comes back inside from Hartley to Tait. Italy snuff the attack out, but England have the put-in...
England in a real battle here, but they need to spread it when they can - they've had success when they've tried to do so. Good hands from Italy, who go right and then left, but England turn it over before winning the penalty.
England giving away too many penalties now, this time it's Care off-side, and Mirco Bergamasco has the chance to give Italy the lead from out right... but the Italian winger hooks it just left...
Penalty to England and Wilkinson kicks to the corner. Easter stretches highest, before England get on a roll. Dan Cole on the rumble, before England win a penalty straight in front... and Wilkinson misses again. Apparently it's this Mitre ball they use in Italy, it's a gram lighter...
More adventure from England, and Monye is released down that left flank again. The ball is recycled, but Haskell is penalised for holding onto the ball.
England win a penalty, Italy tight-head Castrogiovanni pinged for dodgy binding. Wilkinson slots from straight in front, but he'll have to wait for his 500th Six Nations point, that dropped well short. Remarkably, that was the first time he'd missed a kick having started since 2003.
Good start this from Italy, but you'd like to see a bit more adventure from the English back three. But that's better from England - Wilkinson taking the ball flatter, shipping it to Armitage, who slips it back inside to Monye. The Quins winger looks to chip through, but is snagged by Garcia. Slick.
More ping-pong, before Gower decides to keep it in hand. Armitage under the high ball, switches to Wilkinson, before England kick the ball away again. A dreary little passage ends with Italy kicking long.
12 mins: PENALTY Italy 3-3 England
Italy immediately have the chance to level things, Nick Easter is penalised for not releasing the tackler. Mirco Bergamasco slippers one over from the 10 metre line...
10 mins: PENALTY Italy 0-3 England
Dan Cole gets his mitts on the ball - only 22 starts for his club side Leicester - and England continue to make ground. England burgle the Italian line-out for a second time, and win the penalty. Not sure what that was for, but Wilkinson
is not one to question why and slots the three-pointer.
Former Aussie rugby league international Craig Gower with a fizzing flat pass, and the Italian fans have something to shout about. Masi off the right peg and cuts back inside, and they're recycling much quicker than last week. Better. Gower with the cross-kick, and Monye is beaten to it by Zanni, but the Italian number eight attempts the offload when perhaps he should have taken it in.
Care with the box kick, and Italy ship it left. Canale on the canter, and England concede the first penalty of the match for hands in the ruck. Too far out, and Italy kick for territory.
Zanni gathers the high ball at the third attempt, but the ball is thumped back down Monye's neck. Be nice to see some counter-attacking from England, but Monye is happy to ping it back again...
Moody swarms forward from the kick-off and collects Wilkinson's kick. The ball is swung left, Flutey carries over the gain line twice, Armitage chips through, but an Italian boot comes in in the nick of time, with just 33 seconds on the clock.
More than 400 caps in this Italian pack, so, as always, they'll be strong up front at least. Christophe Berdos is the French referee, and on his whistle Jonny Wilkinson gets us under way...
Here come England, closely followed by the Azzurri. Anthems in a couple of seconds, we'll have kick-off in five minutes...
Looks like a crackerjack atmosphere at the Stadio Flaminio, and plenty of England fans in, no doubt about that. Justin Marshall on BBC One wants to see the England three-quarters get their hands on the ball today, and I don't think he's alone... Jerry Guscott thinks Danny Care at scrum-half is key...
From Max in Lytham:
"Well I was going to watch the live coverage on BBC One, but after seeing Inverdale's shirt, I've had to resort back to your internet coverage!"
I agree with the 606ers below, you'd like to think England will try to lob it about a bit today. They've got the players, and I'll be very interested to see how Riki Flutey gets on, I'd like him to come over all Simon Rattle and take up the conductor's baton.
From armchairstrategist on 606:
"I hope we are not going to witness England trying to bulldoze their way to victory otherwise it is going to be a most tedious encounter."
It's fair to say Italy are in a bit of a rough trot - they've won one of their last 15 Tests. England, meanwhile, have lost their last six away matches, five of which were under Martin Johnson.
Just so you know, our TV and online coverage starts at 1400 GMT, as well as 5 live extra, so if you are right of mind, you'll probably be watching or listening to that instead of reading this...
Fifteen times Italy have played England and England have won every one of them. Leicester tight-head Dan Cole is making his first start for the visitors, while Worcester loose-head Matt Mullan is on the bench and in line to make his Test debut. For Italy, Mauro Bergamasco will not be playing at 9...
From Metal-Tiger on 606:
"England's performance against Italy is going to be heavily criticised come what may. If England run riot, running in 10 tries it will be because Italy were rubbish. If Italy put in a great performance and contain England it will be because England were rubbish."
Salute. Italy v England in Rome on this Valentine's afternoon... Italy have never beaten England in 15 attempts, and judging on their performance against Ireland last week, that's unlikely to change today.