Chiefs trio help England to victory
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs lock Jonny Hill scored his first-ever Test try as he helped England bounce back from their Guinness Six Nations Championship defeat to Scotland by beating Italy 41-18 at Twickenham.
Making just his sixth appearance for Eddie Jones' side, the 26-year-old grabbed his side's second try to go alongside further scores from Anthony Watson (2), Jonny May, Jack Willis and Elliott Daly.
Captain Owen Farrell completed the scoring for the hosts with four conversions and a penalty, whilst the Italians replied with tries from Monty Ioane and Tommaso Allan, who also kicked a conversion, alongside two penalties from Paolo Garbisi.
It was a much-needed victory for England, who also included Chiefs duo Luke Cowan-Dickie and Henry Slade in their starting line-up.
However, Jones was quick to voice his concern for Willis after the England flanker suffered a sickening knee injury during the game. The Wasps back-row forward was driven from the field on a medical cart in the 66th minute after Sebastian Negri rolled him out of a ruck, forcing a cry of pain from the player as his leg twisted awkwardly.
It was a cruel blow to Willis, who shortly before had scored his second international try but is now facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
“We’re all concerned. He’s on crutches. He’ll be examined tomorrow (Sunday) but obviously it didn’t look good and probably isn’t good,” Jones said. “We’ll just wait and see. He’s got some sort of knee injury and has been in the dressing room with us.”
Willis was named in England’s squad for their 2018 tour to South Africa but had to withdraw because of a serious injury to his right knee, before his career endured the additional setback of a significant ankle problem.
Negri, the Italy flanker, was on the ground when he performed a controversial manoeuvre called a ‘crocodile roll’ that while yet to be outlawed from the game, is a source of tension in the game.
“It’s up to the referee to interpret that. The referee has to make the decision on whether it was safe or not. We abide by whatever decision the referee makes,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, May moved clear into second place in England’s all-time try-scoring list with an acrobatic finish on the stroke of half-time, while fellow flyer Watson struck twice as the champions secured partial redemption for their dire Calcutta Cup defeat by Scotland a week ago.
“Jonny’s obviously been watching rugby league tapes! In NRL that’s a fairly traditional way to finish, a smart way to finish,” Jones said. “It was absolutely brilliant. I haven’t seen him do that in training as such but he’s such a good try-scorer. He’s always looking to see how he can score a try.
“Anthony looked sharp, really good. He’s getting back to his best form. He had a difficult time after the World Cup with a number of injuries and wasn’t at his best in the autumn. But he’s had a really good training period now and he’s definitely getting back to his best.”