Before Saturday’s much-needed thrashing of Italy, the England camp was shrouded with negativity after their previous Six Nations performance against Scotland marked one of the all-time worst under Eddie Jones’ leadership. They were toothless, sluggish and uninspiring, falling to a deserved defeat at the hands of a Scottish side bearing all the hallmarks of what England used to be.
The victors in the opening round were ruthless and displayed bravery and determination in abundance, all of which are key qualities that led England to a Rugby World Cup final in 2019 and the Six Nations title last year.
Instead, Jones’ men were timid and desperately lacking the sharpness of the team’s Saracens contingent, including star man Owen Farrell, who was ineffective for large parts of the game.
Fast forward a week, though, and England look like they could be on their way back to something resembling their best.
Full-back Elliot Daly claimed after the Scotland match that critics would be unwise to write off his side, hinting at the fact that last year’s championship was won after a similarly disappointing loss on the opening day.
“These competitions aren’t won on the first weekend,” Daly told reporters. “We know we can turn it around, so this is a good opportunity to really fly into it and see where we can put ourselves.”
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And fly into it they did, in quite a literal sense.
Jonny May’s acrobatic try was the highlight of Saturday’s win over Italy, with the 30-year-old soaring high above an onrushing defender to plant the ball behind the line in impressive fashion.
The rest of England’s performance showed that they remain capable of exhibiting their world-class traits of old, notwithstanding the quality of their opposition.
A potential banana skin did not seem out of the question leading up to the first whistle, a suggestion that became even more apparent when Italy drew first blood with a quick-fire try inside three minutes.
It takes character to come back from such an early setback, especially after being targeted by scatching and widespread criticism for an entire week following the defeat against Scotland.
England will have been fearing the worst after Italy’s opening score, desperately hoping that they would not produce their second national embarrassment in a little over seven days.
However, they dug deep and showed the mental strength and resilience needed in order to fight back in style, eventually running in six tries against their Italian opponents without a hint of mercy.
Their key players also performed well, which is exactly what Jones needs to sustain a championship challenge.
Daly, May and Anthony Watson were among England’s most productive ball-carriers, while Farrell’s contributions with the boot were mostly positive and crucial in helping his side to a welcome bonus point.
The result provides England with some much-needed winning momentum going into their upcoming clash with old rivals Wales, who impressively downed Ireland in their first round fixture.
Jones’s side will need to be at their very best against the 2019 champions if they are to fulfil Daly’s prophecy of Six Nations glory.