Italy vs. England: Score and Lessons Learned from Six Nations Clash
England's 52-11 win over Italy wasn't quite enough to see them trump Ireland in the race for this year's Six Nations title, but Stuart Lancaster has plenty of positives to take from the encounter.
For Jacques Brunel, it's a case of heading back to the drawing board after seeing his team finish at the bottom of the Six Nations standings.
In the wake of the Rome result, we break down some of those lessons taken away from England's latest routing
1. Mike Brown Is Fully Deserving of 'Player of the Series' Honours
If there were any doubts as to why Mike Brown deserves to be in the reckoning, if not the standout choice for this year's Player of the Series award, Saturday's display served as further evidence why the full-back is completely deserving.
Thanks to his brace against the Azzurri, Brown finishes this year's tournament as joint-top try scorer with four, alongside Ireland's Jonny Sexton.
Scoring in both tight situations and times when the result was more assured, Brown has popped up whenever his team needed him, always at the forefront of England's carriers and ever willing to take the ball directly to the opposition.
This time last year, Brown was barely holding down his place on Lancaster's left wing, but now the Harlequins talisman is proving himself as one of the best players currently wearing a No. 15 jersey in world rugby, with his performance in Rome indicative of award credentials.
2. Italian Defence Is More of a Shambles Than We Thought
Italy and Scotland are regularly batted about as the less respected minnows of the Six Nations, often exchanging Wooden Spoon honours between them, this much we know.
But if one was of the impression that Brunel's outfit were making steady progress, they may want to think again.
Italy had one advantage heading into this fixture in that they knew exactly how England were bringing the fight. Lancaster's men needed to claw down Ireland's points difference, and that should have been apparent in Italy's tactics.
However, all too easily were the Rome hosts bested in all facets of the game, losing three of their own line-outs, four of their own scrums and missing a massive 25 tackles in total.
In short, it's simply not good enough, even for one of the tournament's small sides, to be coming up against such challenges with such a weak defence, which was only one week after being battered in similar fashion by Ireland.
3. Stuart Lancaster's Squad Bubbling Perfectly for 2015 Rugby World Cup
Sure, they may not have won this year's tournament, but England can walk away from this year's Six Nations with a sly smirk on their face, knowing full well that things are coming together nicely in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
In hindsight, Lancaster was right to give some new and experimental options their chance in the squad. Players such as Luther Burrell, Jack Nowell and Jonny May have gotten off to particularly promising starts internationally, with the tour of New Zealand their next proving ground.
Add to that back line the increasingly impressive Billy Twelvetrees and Owen Farrell, and you've got a young, improving line-up that's also got the benefit of welcoming Manu Tuilagi to the mix.
A lot of talk over the next 18 months will revolve around Sam Burgess and exactly where he fits into that setup, if at all. With the forwards looking solid, not to mention just as young in years, an intriguing year-and-a-half of development lies ahead.
4. Tommaso Allan Needs Time Before Stepping into the Spotlight
Prior to this year's tournament, Tommaso Allan was being looked upon as a potential star for Italy, a young and upcoming talent upon whom the side may be able to pin a lot of their hopes in the years to come.
However, whether as a result of the pressure placed upon him or simply due to his talent itself, the Scot-turned-Italian just didin't rise to the occasion.
Missed kicks and poor defence were both on show against England, with Allan making just four tackles and missing two in less than a half, the same disappointing numbers as the man he was replacing Luciano Orquera.
Though Italy might be keen to promote their youngster, it may be wise to give Allan his time to grow, even time away from the national team, if he's not showing the kind of form that warrants it. In the long run, he'll benefit more.
5. George Ford Gives Lancaster a Sterling Second Option
It may have only been a 10-minute cameo, but George Ford, making just his second international appearance, showed some very bright moments against the Italians that fans didn't quite get the chance to see against Wales.
In that short space of time, Ford was positive, forward-thinking and genuinely enthusiastic about leaving his own mark on the game, regardless of time afforded to him.
In the end, the Bath youngster would set up Chris Robshaw for England's seventh try. Although it's Farrell who's bound to govern the No. 10 jersey for some time, it seems that Ford gives Lancaster a stellar second option or even first—should Farrell ever be needed at centre.
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