Hodgson takes charge and Azzurri uprising is quashed

Italy 15 England 19: Fly-half repeats his Murrayfield feat in Rome and resilient England win a second successive match on the road

Stadio Olimpico

There was always a chance of cold comfort for England in the Eternal City yesterday and when it became obvious that the second of their Six Nations matches would be played in the southern European equivalent of an igloo – locals say the winter here is the worst in 50 years – they were in danger of being frozen out completely. To their great credit, Chris Robshaw and company toughed it out in securing a second win on the road and if there was an element of good fortune about the match-turning score, they just about deserved their victory.

Freakishly, the try that mattered fell to Charlie Hodgson (right). Again. From a charged-down kick. Again. A week previously at Murrayfield, the fly-half got hands to a clearance from the Scotland No 10, Dan Parks, and won a very short race to the touchdown. Yesterday, with England nine points adrift, he homed in on Andrea Masi as the full-back shaped up to boot turnover ball from his 22 and claimed another five-pointer after running a few metres further. Owen Farrell's beautifully-struck conversion from the left brought the visitors to within two.

For the remaining half-hour or so, England knew where their destination lay. It was not a comfortable trip: the Azzurri, not least their astonishing captain, Sergio Parisse, continued to ask difficult questions. But Farrell, bloodied and bandaged for much of the match, hit the spot with penalties on 54 and 65 minutes to build on Hodgson's try and for all their huffing and puffing, the Italians were unable to find a way back – not least because the back-rower Ben Morgan and the scrum-half Lee Dickson made significant impacts off the bench.

Just as at Murrayfield, this profoundly inexperienced England outfit started at a good tempo. The most striking contribution came from the Northampton No 8 Phil Dowson, clearly motivated by the chatter earlier in the week of a possible demotion. It was Dowson's fumble in Edinburgh that had forced his colleagues into a long spell on the barricades but here he was ultra-reliable under the high ball and dependable in contact. He might even have scored a try early in the second quarter after following up David Strettle's kick and maximising Farrell's excellent tackle on Tommaso Benvenuti by grounding the loose ball, but the French referee, Jérôme Garces, had blown for an England penalty.

If England felt short-changed, Farrell made them feel better by nail-ing a three-pointer from 40-plus metres. When the 20-year-old Saracens centre banged over a second from the same distance, after Garces took exception to the Italy front row at a set-piece, England were six points to the good and licking their lips. That second penalty was awarded against Lorenzo Cittadini, on the field as a replacement for Martin Castrogiovanni, whose departure with a rib problem stripped an acre of ground from under the feet of the Italian pack.

Yet the Azzurri were never off the pace, with Parisse aided by Alessandro Zanni and Robert Barbieri. Parisse is something: far and away the finest No 8 in the world on his day. His performance was not faultless – more than once, passes out of contact went astray – but when a player is doing pretty much everything, something is bound to go wrong somewhere.

As the contest moved towards its mid-point, Parisse and his men began to establish control that was made tangible in the minutes before the break. First, the wing Giovanbattista Venditti scored a try in the right corner after a toe-poked kick from the impressive Benvenuti had pinballed off Ben Foden and Ben Youngs, neither of whom covered themselves in glory in attempting to snuff out the peril. Then, from the restart, Foden attempted to find Hodgson with a pass out of a tackle by Zanni and found Benvenuti instead. The centre's one-handed gathering of the ball was precise, as was his angled run to the line from the best part of 50 metres.

England were suddenly contemplating a first defeat by these opponents but their resilience was striking, even if their cause was helped by Italian errors on and off the field. Quite why Jacques Brunel, the Azzurri coach, withdrew the slippery scrum-half Edoardo Gori as early as he did will long remain a mystery, as will Parisse's decision to sanction a late shot at the sticks from Tobias Botes, who patentlywas not up to the task from long range – or even from medium range.

A kick to the corner and a line-out drive might have won the game for the Italian, but the captain chose differently. Will England lose a moment's sleep over such misjudgements? The question answers itself.

Italy A Masi; G Venditti (both Aironi), T Benvenuti (Treviso), G Canale (Clermont Auvergne), L McLean; K Burton, E Gori (all Treviso); A Lo Cicero (Racing Métro), L Ghiraldini (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester), Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami (both Aironi), A Zanni (Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Français, capt), R Barbieri (Treviso). Replacements L Cittadini (Treviso) for Castrogiovanni, 33; F Semenzato (Treviso) for Gori, 57; A Pavanello (Treviso) for Geldenhuys, 57; T D'Apice (Aironi) for Ghiraldini, 58; L Morisi (Crociati) for Canale, 63; M Bergamasco (Stade Français) for Barbieri, 75.

England B Foden (Northampton); D Strettle, B Barritt, O Farrell (all Saracens), C Ashton (Northampton); C Hodgson (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester); A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), M Botha (Saracens), T Palmer (Stade Français), T Croft (Leicester), P Dowson (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt). Replacements L Dickson (Northampton) for Youngs, 50; B Morgan (Scarlets) for Dowson, 50; G Parling (Leicester) for Palmer, 58; R Webber (Wasps) for Hartley, 74; M Stevens (Saracens) for Cole, 74; J Turner-Hall (Harlequins) for Hodgson, 77.

Referee J Garces (France).


Tries: Venditti, Benvenuti

Con: Burton

Pen: Burton


Try: Hodgson

Con: Farrell

Pens: Farrell 4

Attendance 60,000.

Rome wasn't built in a day: Six key areas for England


Team spirit being a splendid thing, the buckets of it sloshing around this England team are wholly welcome to see. The relentless example is set by Chris Robshaw, the new captain who has done precisely what everyone except him – he's a suitably self-effacing chap, straight out of a Henty novel, just playing up for the School – said he would do: set a sterling, striving, straining, non-stopping example.


The flipside is that all that perspiration is all very well but scoring against Wales, next, will demand something more than a refusal to stop working your collective nuts off. Yesterday there was the odd flash in the backs, as opposed to the full-blown fireworks of North, Roberts, Davies and co. Needs work.


Stuart Lancaster sent on Lee Dickson and Ben Morgan for half an hour and they helped turn things around in what seemed – in a game, or "struggle", that passed a tad slowly – like an instant. In some ways this is a mere extension of the commitment thing, in that the subs (Geoff Parling most obviously) simply worked every bit as hard as the starters. But Lancaster played his cards dead right.


England played the weather pretty well, settling to a muddy, slushy, snowy scrap and eking out four penalties and 12 points in so doing. Rugby being a game for all conditions, with tactics to be adapted as necessary, this was worth a pat on the back. None of them were wearing gloves, either, although the thermal undervest remains a blight on the game. If you're cold, get involved.


Very good again, apart from an odd little spasm of penalties after half-time which helped Italy out to 15-6. Notably, very few of the penalties England did give away were at the breakdown. Watch the forwards on the replay – Lancaster, or maybe Graham Rowntree, has got them springing back from the tackled man, hands aloft in (relatively) cherubic innocence. Seems to work.

Set pieces

Alex Corbisiero had his spine twisted into a double helix at the first scrum, but after that he gave mighty Martin Castrogiovanni nothing at all. On the other side, Dan Cole – a spade-chinned Tudor tough up against Andrea Lo Cicero's mustachioed Barone – made profitable advances. The line-out wobbled a bit again, but the scrum was excellent. Another merit for Mr Rowntree.

Martin Pengelly

Sir David Attenborough
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness