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Five-try England beat Italy 34-5 to keep Six Nations hopes alive

Filed on October 31, 2020
England's Billy Vunipola runs with the bad towards the Italian defence during the Six Nations rugby union international match between Italy and England at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.— AP

England have 18 points after their final game in the coronavirus-interrupted tournament at the Stadio Olimpico

A below-par England beat Italy 34-5 in Rome to put themselves in prime position to win the Six Nations championship but they must wait until the end of the France v Ireland game later on Saturday to discover if they have done enough.

England, who began the day 23 points behind Ireland on points difference and two ahead of France, are now six ahead of the Irish and will hope they don’t manage a bonus-point win over the French that would give them the title whatever the score.

It was a day to remember for England scrumhalf Ben Youngs, who marked his 100th appearance with two smart individual tries and the man of the match award.

“I’m obviously very proud but the most important thing for me was to play my part in this team,” Youngs told ITV. “It’s a nice milestone.

“We always felt like it was going to be a grinding down process, we knew if we stuck to it we’d get there in the end.”

England did stutter for long periods, securing the all-important bonus point only 13 minutes from time.

England made the ideal start when flyhalf Owen Farrell broke clear and sent Youngs over to mark his 100th cap with the first try after five minutes.

But absent England fans expecting the floodgates to open were to be disappointed as they not only failed to add anything more than a Farrell penalty but spent much of the half on the defensive.

Number eight Jake Polledri burst through for an excellent Italian try and the hosts came close to another as England reeled after a yellow card for debutant lock Jonny Hill.

England constantly kicked away possession and Italy looked the more cohesive side.

Youngs was the man of the moment again a minute after the restart, however, dummying twice to sneak through for his second try with Italy down to 14 with Polledri in the sin-bin.

England were finally playing with more patience and a rolling maul sent Jamie George over to mark his 50th cap with a try and flanker Tom Curry slipped down the blindside to get the all-important fourth after 67 minutes.

Henry Slade chased down a Farrell grubber kick for England’s fifth try - completing a good few weeks for the centre, who scored in Exeter’s European and Premiership final successes.

It also, possibly crucially, meant Ireland would need to win by seven points in Paris, assuming they don’t get a bonus point.

“It is a tough game tonight. We’ve done our job really and we will wait and see,” Farrell said.

“We started the game well, obviously a large chunk of that first half where we didn’t manage to get our hands on the ball and manage to put our game on the field,” he added.

“But that is what international rugby is like. We talked at halftime, came out and did a job in the second half.”

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