New era, new errors but now Wales offer England true Six Nations test

Ethan Roots impressed on his England debut (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Flat, very flat’ was a phrase bounding around the cobbled streets of Rome as I meandered back from the Stadio Olimpico after Steve Borthwick’s side had begun their Six Nations campaign with a victory.

Many English fans making their way back to the centre of town seemed content to have watched the game in glorious Italian sunshine, but not much more than that.

That is understandable as the match was far from a classic, and was very much a job done from the English, with defensive mistakes and attacking errors seeping into what became a stop-start affair.

However, as the spring-time warmth wrapped around the stadium, there were signs starting to sprout of what might be to come for this fresh-faced England squad, who will have the perfect opportunity to show off these green shoots of recovery at Twickenham on Saturday against Wales.

The game was indeed error strewn but there was enough in the performance to give hope that there is a lot more to come.

With an attack trying to punch holes in the Italian defence, at least England kept ball in hand a lot more than they had during the World Cup.

Tommy Freeman was an attacking threat for England in Rome

Tommy Freeman was an attacking threat for England in Rome (Picture: Shutterstock)

With new boys showcasing their talent, in particular Ethan Roots – named player of the match – and Tommy Freeman, we were left with intrigue about where England are looking to develop.

Greater tests are to come and this weekend’s clash with Wales is the perfect fixture
for England.

A youthful team that were crushed in the first half against Scotland but recovered from a 27-point deficit to lose by just one point. In effect both teams have a similar level of momentum, self-doubt and youthful exuberance heading into the fixture.

Both squads are finding their feet and adapting to new styles and combinations. England are favourites and would seem to be facing a team that will allow them to build on the Italian result.

However, with the wind in their sails after their near comeback against Scotland, Wales will feel confident coming to Twickenham.

It leaves a layer of fascination surrounding this match. With both sides unconvincing and unsure of their styles, there will be nerves in the Twickenham stands and so too the changing rooms.

Without doubt, Wales have the ability to upset England at home, especially if the hosts’ defence is as disjointed as it was in Rome and the attack struggles to dominate the gainline once more.

England will be challenged mentally to see if they are committed to their ‘new’ style.

To lift the tribunes and put smiles on faces will go only so far if England struggle to kick into gear before they have a week’s rest.

Their captain Jamie George has told the world they are dedicated to playing a new brand of rugby. Saturday is the first real test.

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