England’s eight-try win over Italy kept them firmly in the Championship shake-up heading into Super Saturday.
It was their most dominant victory of the Championship so far, but achieved by sticking to the same principles that have served them well so far in 2019.
And here AWS dig deep to find the key statistics from an impressive Red Rose victory.
Despite outscoring Italy by eight tries to two, England were once again happy to let Italy have more of the ball during the contest.
Indeed England only had 44% of possession in the game, kicked the ball away more than Italy and also lost the territory battle 51-49 in the favour of the Azzurri.
Italy actually spent 21.7 minutes attacking England to 17.1 minutes of England on the front foot.
But when England got their chances, they were clinical in attack.
They made 938m with ball in hand to Italy’s 691m, ten linebreaks to Italy’s four, broke the gainline 80% of the time they carried into contact and only shipped three penalties all afternoon.
Throw in a perfect set-piece performance, England were 100% on both scrum and lineout, and it was always going to be a long day for the Italians.
GRUNT UP FRONT
Most of the headlines will go to the powerful England back line, and we have much more on them later.
But first of all, we must look at the platform laid by England’s pack – and one man in particular stood out for an England perspective.
Lock George Kruis is having an astonishingly good Guinness Six Nations. And this Italy clash was his best showing yet.
Yes, his two chargedowns caught the eye, creating a try for himself and for Brad Shields, but in the unseen work he was also spectacular.
Kruis made 21 tackles, the highest tally in the game, chipped in a team-high nine more assist tackles, arrived first at an England ruck 23 times, and performed a team high ten cleanouts.
The Saracens lock is standing out in a competitive England second row and appears almost undroppable at this point.
BILLY AND BRAD
Special mention too for Brad Shields, on his first Championship start, who made 21 tackles like Kruis and also crossed for two tries.
Injury limited Shields’ game time at the start of the Championship, but after a breakthrough autumn with England, he looks back to his best.
And alongside him in the back row Billy Vunipola remains a key contributor.
The No.8 is back to something approaching his best at long last after an injury-interrupted 2018.
Here he made 17 carries, no other Englishman was in double figures, ran for 112m and also chipped in with two offloads.
And in a game that actually saw Italy generate more quick ball than England, England also managed two breakdown steals – Ellis Genge in the first half – ably assisted by Shields – and Nathan Hughes in the second half when the Wasps man came on to cover the second row.
BACK IN BUSINESS
But if the forwards did the dirty work, then it was the backs who brought the razzle dazzle.
We have to start with the man of the match Joe Cokanasiga, the man of the match on his first Guinness Six Nations start.
The Bath winger made 114m, led the team with four line breaks, one tackle break and two offloads.
The way he swatted away defenders created tries for both Manu Tuilagi and Dan Robson in the second half, while in the first half his no-look offload to Tom Curry almost produced one of the tries of the Championship.
But a word too for Manu Tuilagi, returned to his preferred No.13 jersey on Saturday who scored a double – his first tries in over five years for his country.
The top metre maker in the game, Tuilagi managed 128m with ball in hand, made three tackle breaks and three line breaks and showcased his subtle speed and footwork that belies his hulking frame.
A word for the Italians though, and in particular Federico Ruzza in the second row.
The Benetton man has had to bide his time before earning starts in Round Three and Four but in those games he has proven to be a star in waiting.
The lock was absolutely everywhere this weekend for the Azzurri and his stats are eye-popping.
He made 92m with ball in hand, more than Italian in the entire game including their back line and managed a line break and 14 carries.
He was also the top tackler with 15, the top assist tackler for his country with five and also hit the most rucks with 31.
He took a while to earn O’Shea’s trust, you would think he is there to stay in the engine room now for Italy.