Jonny Wilkinson warned England’s players that they need to go up a gear and ‘keep pushing their intensity’ levels after opening their Six Nations campaign with a nervy 27-24 win over Italy.
England were forced to come from behind at Stadio Olimpico, with hosts Italy holding a 17-14 lead at the halfway stage after debutant Alessandro Garbisi and Tomasso Allan crossed over either side of Elliot Daly’s 20th-minute try.
Alex Mitchell touched down five minutes into the second half to put England in front in Rome and George Fordkicked the visitors to victory with a conversion and two penalties before Monty Ioane’s consolation try at the death.
The result saw England go second in the table behind reigning champions Ireland, who produced a statement performance to beat 14-man France 38-17 in this year’s curtain-raiser in Marseille.
Steve Borthwick’s men play host to Wales in their next match of the championship and Wilkinson believes it will be a big ‘step up’ at Twickenham.
‘I think the bar has been set very high by Ireland and that’s the question now and the energy the England team want to play with,’ 2003 World Cup winner Wilkinson told ITV Sport shortly after the final whistle.
‘Can England marry that with just this desire, almost ruthless need to get things at a certain level? Next week it’s going to step up, it’s going to step right up, and there were certain things here which just won’t cut it.
‘I think bringing that whilst maintaining that sense of togetherness, team spirit and just keep pushing that intensity because otherwise it’s going to be up, down, up, down.
‘With Ireland, you see what they bring every week. It’s just there.
‘You can feel it when they’re walking in the stadium 100 metres away, you can feel something is here. England have got to find that.’
Ugo Monye felt there were a number of positives to take from England’s display to kick off Jamie George’s reign as captain, but stressed that Borthwick’s side must find a ‘ruthless edge’ if they are to challenge for this year’s championship.
‘Let’s start with the positives. England have started the Six Nations with a win for the first time in five years, since 2019. We can tick that box,’ the former England winger said.
‘For the five debutants who have had their opportunities to cut their teeth at Test match rugby, that’s another positive.
‘The defence we saw in that second half and the sense of intensity and physicality. How can we have that for 80 minutes?
‘And then it’s that ruthless edge. You can’t be outscored by Italy.
‘So yes, it’s a really good start but they know they’re going to have to find another gear against Wales next week.’
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