The unsympathetic reaction from the fans once the final whistle was blown told everything you needed to know about the match. England won, but were far from impressive, needing six Toby Flood penalties to overcome a stubborn Italy side, that almost thwarted a perfect run in the 2013 Six Nations Championship.
Complacency was always going to be an issue, knowing that Italy, who have lost all of their matches to England since the two teams first met over 20 years ago, and the fate of the title, win or lose, remains in the match at Cardiff in a week from now, with Wales also playing for a chance to win the title.
With the 18-11 win over Italy, England now have a 14 point lead over Wales, should it come to point difference. Wales need to win by 15 points in order to win the title, which seems to be very hard to do in the current situation and quality differences between the sides.
About the match: Italy won a few compliments, as Sergio Parisse’s presence gave them a huge lift. We didn’t see too many passing phases from the Italians until the second half, but they were certainly more up for the task of slowing England down in their few breaks into the Italy 22 than in their previous defeats to Wales and Scotland.
Too many changes were bound to ruin the fluidity and rhythm of the England play on both sides of the ball, but it shouldn’t have been by this much. Flood struggled past the first half to spread the ball well among his teammates, and while Danny Care had a few moments of showing some subtle and impressive passing, he made too many mistakes in his kicking to really win himself a place for the crucial match at Cardiff a week from now.
If some feel like dejavu from the 2011 edition, you’re not alone. England won the tournament but didn’t feel too confident about their ending after being steamrolled in Dublin by a booming Irish side. A similar outcome in Cardiff, even if they do end up winning the title for the second time in three years, will leave a bitter taste in their mouths, knowing that a better performance against Italy might have been enough to put them far enough ahead.