Six Nations
Eddie Jones' England face tougher tests after perfect Six Nations start
Tom Hamilton
February 15, 2016
Highlights: Italy 9-40 England

ROME -- It was largely as Eddie Jones foresaw -- England pulled away in the second half of their visit to Italy and won by 31 points, the scoreboard showing a "good hiding" for the hosts. But exactly where they are as a team will be highlighted over the next three matches.

Two games gone, two wins and no tries conceded. It is the same form that kicked off England's charge to the 1991 Grand Slam; it has taken them 25 years to start another championship as well.

There is still an element of the unknown about this side. The eventual shellacking in Rome belied the first 50 minutes of the match where it was close. Italy, robbed of three players through injury in the first half, eventually ran out of puff. England went with a potent bench and that proved to be the difference with Danny Care's entrance the catalyst for England's eventual dominance.

However, Ireland and Wales will not roll over as easily. The opening 50 saw England struggling to establish a momentum to their phase play and players were rarely given space to exploit.

Jones: England could have easily scored sixty points

There were positives for England: Jonathan Joseph scored his first Test hat-trick and showed signs of being back to his 2015 championship best while George Kruis performed heroically and two players were handed their debuts. The George Ford-Owen Farrell axis is still developing and they will only grow in familiarity as the minutes are clocked up.

"The conversations we're having constantly throughout the game are brilliant," Ford said of the partnership afterwards. "It's only the second proper game we've had at this level but we both feel comfortable out there. Hopefully it's helpful for us both."

Eddie Jones the head coach of England speaks with England captain Dylan Hartley
Eddie Jones the head coach of England speaks with England captain Dylan Hartley© Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

Beneath the excitement and pride in two wins from two, there is a realisation that Ireland in a fortnight's time at Twickenham will offer a true barometer of where Jones' England are. Those lofty hopes of Grand Slams can wait.

"We're just focused on working out how to beat Ireland," Ford added. "We are back at Twickenham which we are excited about and we know how much of a threat they pose. We need to work hard to make sure we are in the right position to play well."

For England, it is a case of baby steps. Areas of dominance against Scotland last week were not quite as accurate in Rome while other facets of their game were more developed this week than at Murrayfield.

Last week they did well in the set piece with the lineout dominant. In Rome the lineout was a little less sturdy with England losing four on their own throw while they made gains in other areas. The lineout familiarity will develop in time with Steve Borthwick only at the early stages of his work with the pack but it will need to improve for when they welcome Ireland with the likes of Devin Toner only too happy to snaffle up any loose throws.

Jones' predecessor Stuart Lancaster used the term "work-ons" for areas of improvement and though the new England coach was happy with the overall performance, he will have a realisation that they need to step up certain areas of their game with the breakdown also needing an element of finessing.

Lawson: Quality of England's bench is amazing

One huge positive for England will be the solidity of their defence. "It has been excellent," Jones said. "Paul Gustard [the new England defence coach] has done a great job in a short period of time. We were quite brutal in the second half. We really came off the line and hurt people and as a result we got some turnover ball."

Maintaining those standards will be essential if they are to continue this winning run when Ireland come to town.

Jones says there are places up for grabs in the team and he will pick a 23 which caters for the full 80 minutes. It is a slightly different way of looking at the game and offers England multiple waves of pressure with the scrum-half debate indicative of this.

Care's introduction in Rome changed the pace of the match but only after Youngs had caused Italy difficulty for the first 50. Rather than having first and second-choice players, the two No.9s are almost on a par with Jones utilising one skillset from the outset and another at an appointed time. The smart money would be on Jones sticking with this order for Ireland.

England now have a week off to regroup and refocus but after two games they are exactly where they want to be. It was far from perfect in Rome but that is sometimes a blessing, the hunger intensifies as does the focus on achieving constant improvement. "We've had two games and two wins and no major injuries, so we're sailing along pretty well at the moment," Jones said. With Ireland, Wales and France to finish, the waters are sure to get at least a little bit choppier.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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