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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 10:44 GMT
England's rights and wrongs
By James Standley
BBC Sport at Twickenham

Andy Robinson
England's problem going into the Italy game was the level of expectation that surrounds them.

Despite the fact the match was between the bottom two teams in the Six Nations, one teenage fan confidently predicted "we should put 100 points on them today".

In the end, England ran in six tries as they beat Italy 39-7 and there were signs a corner had been turned, although it is far too early to say the team is back to its best.

Here are the pluses and minuses from a chilly day at Twickenham.

PLUSES

THE PACK

England's once-feared eight has been a shadow of its former self this year, but on Saturday the pack turned in a fine display.

It was not perfect - there were too many errors and spells when they lost control - but the Italian pack has plenty of respect around the world and they were frequently bossed about.

For the first time this championship the backs were supplied with quick ball and the results were there for all to see as England spread it wide.

Steve Thompson and co were on form in the lineout and in the tight England were on top, with tight-head Matt Stevens confirming his potential as England shoved the Italians back yards in the scrum on a couple of occasions.

THE BACK THREE

Jason Robinson watches the game from the stands
England barely missed Robinson in the back three
They scored four tries between them, should have had at least three more and generally caused havoc every time they got the ball.

Make no mistake, they were helped by the fact the Italian backs have all the punch of a Fiat Cinquecento, but all you can do is beat what is put in front of you.

Iain Balshaw made light of the loss of Jason Robinson by hitting the line at pace from full-back in a way that has not been seen by England for a long time.

The patterns and passing that the backline produced - on the back of quick ball - showed signs that attacking coach Joe Lydon's influence might at last be coming through.

THE CAPTAIN

Martin Corry was man of the match as he once again turned in the sort of committed displays he is fast becoming known for by more than just Leicester fans.

Jason Robinson will feel unlucky to have handed over the reins just as Italy arrived in town but the presence of Corry at the heart of the action can only help England.

With Corry hitting his straps his fellow forwards turned in their most cohesive display since South Africa were beaten back in November.

After the game, Corry refused to get carried away, saying he was "fairly satisfied" and, with the Leicester player at the helm, there is a feeling England have found the right man at a difficult time.

THE MINUS

THE HALF-BACKS

While it was a good performance, it was far from perfect and England will be worried that Charlie Hodgson turned in another erratic kicking display.

He missed several kickable chances and, for the first time, there were signs the England crowd are losing patience with the gifted Sale playmaker.

The fact that Jonny Wilkinson was preparing to make his latest comeback just across the road from Twickenham at Harlequins' Stoop ground, was not lost on many.

And Wilkinson's latest in a series of injuries will have been felt even more keenly after Hodgson's rocky display.

Harry Ellis also failed to convince at scrum-half, and he will have to improve his passing if he is to make the England number nine shirt his own.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Highlights: England 39-7 Italy


Interview: England coach Andy Robinson


Interview: England captain Martin Corry


Interview: England's Mark Cueto



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