England coach Andy Robinson insisted he was unsurprised by Italy's stiff resistance in the world champions 31-16 win in Rome on Saturday.
Robinson paid tribute to the calibre of England's tries
The unfancied Italians had led the game 9-7 shortly after half-time before England eventually pulled clear.
Robinson told BBC Sport: "We always knew how tough it would be. They should have beaten Ireland last weekend.
"We made hard work of it initially but our second-half display was superb. We upped the pace and got quicker ball."
England struggled to make any impact on Italy's defence in the first half before dominating after the interval.
Despite the tight nature of a match his team had been expected to dominate, Robinson paid tribute to his players.
"It was really pleasing that we kept our control of the game," he said. "We scored some very good tries - the try from Mark Cueto was superb as was the score by Mike Tindall."
England captain Martin Corry said his side made a significant breakthrough after the win in Italy ended a run of six successive away defeats.
"A lot of what we've done has been built on playing at Twickenham so this is a big deal for us," Corry said.
"The real test is playing well on the road, and we knew that Italy would provide a major challenge.
"We have put in a real dogged performance away from home and there is a real buzz in the changing room."
Charlie Hodgson was once again England's playmaker, capping a fine performance with a try.
Afterwards the man of the match said: "It was very tough and we knew they would be very physical. We knew we were in for a tough game and it was.
"They pushed Ireland close last week in Dublin and they had the added incentive of playing at home.
"In the first half there was a lot of slow ball. We tried to get quicker ball and got the forwards involved in the game. That opened up some spaces as well."