Well, that was a thoroughly uninspired performance by England. In the end they won 17-12, but the result was in doubt for much of the match, and had Lewis Moody been yellow-carded for taking McLean out in the air, which he very easily could have been, Italy might have won the game. (If I were a referee I’d yellow-card Moody for breathing on the grounds that’s he’s probably up to no good by doing so, but he’s been a great servant to England over the years by erring just on the side of legality most of the time, or at least not getting caught.)
Italy played a much more expansive and ambitious game than they had done in Dublin last weekend. They don’t really have the talent to break down England’s defense, but they did worry them, and they showed far more enterprise than their opponents who, for the most part, were happy to sit back and play ping pong, punting the ball back and fore down field.
How bad were England? Well, last weekend, against a much better Welsh side, they scored 17 points while Alyn Wyn Jones was sin binned. Today, the only points they scored during Alessandro Castrogiovanni’s absence were the three from the penalty awarded for his original infringement. Italy, on the other hand, scored three while a man down and could easily have got more. Jonny Wilkinson and Dylan Hartley had particularly bad games, but the whole England side were uninspired. They will have to do much better than that against Ireland in two weeks time.