Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Farrell hails ‘brilliant’ Sam Simmonds after Rome win


Sam Simmonds, second left, runs in to score England’s fourth try against Italy in their Six Nations match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Owen Farrell on Sunday praised the “brilliant” Sam Simmonds after the Exeter No. 8 marked his Six Nations debut with two tries in reigning champions England’s opening 46-15 win away to Italy.

Simmonds, earning just his fourth cap, was only in the starting XV following injuries to Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes, but the 23-year-old more than justified the faith shown in him by coach Eddie Jones, with his second-half double part of England’s match-haul of seven tries that saw them launch their bid for an unprecedented third successive outright Six Nations title in style.

Simmonds might be 12kg lighter than Vunipola, but he still made his presence felt against an Italy back row featuring Sergio Parisse, one of the outstanding No. 8s of his generation.

“Sam Simmonds was brilliant,” Farrell told ITV Sport. “He’s quick and powerful, and we’re pleased to have him in our squad.”

Anthony Watson’s try-double inside 11 minutes put England 10-0 up, with Farrell, unusually, failing to convert either score, albeit both kicks were from the right touchline, but the Saracens center eventually found his range and also scored a try on the way to a 16-point return.

“I’m happy. It’s good that we built through the game, and got better and better,” Farrell said after his 58th England cap.

“We’ll improve. It’s a good start to a campaign — now we go away and work for next week,” he added ahead of England’s clash with Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.

Italy might now have lost all 24 of their Tests against England, but they were only 17-10 down at halftime.

Former England captain Will Carling said he had been impressed by Italy’s attacking threat.

“Whatever the final score Italians have been tough opponents — offering far more in the backs these days,” Carling, a center in his playing days, tweeted.

Farrell agreed.

“It felt like they were spending time in our half early on, they put some press on us, but our lads held out, and we built and built,” he said.

Italy coach Conor O’Shea gave Six Nations debuts to seven players in a match where backs Tommaso Benvenuti and Mattia Bellini scored well-worked tries.

“We were hugely competitive and I thought we played some really good rugby,” O’Shea said.

“I said before the game I wanted the young players to go out and show there’s a real change in what we’re doing as a country,” the former Ireland fullback added. “We played some excellent rugby and contributed to an entertaining game, but I’m proud and annoyed. It will be another statistic in the book, but anyone here today could see what we were trying to do. We know we’re off in certain areas and the progress we need to make, but we’re making it. What they saw out there was a team playing competitive rugby with more to come.”

Parisse suffered a rib blow, while England scrumhalf Ben Youngs is set to miss the Wales game after going off with a knee injury just 10 minutes into the match.

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