Martin Johnson’s England started the 2009 Six Nations with a comfortable win over Italy, although the 2003 World Cup winners failed to find top form.
England outscored the Azzuri by five tries to one in their first Six Nations fixture under former Lions skipper Johnson, with Leicester scrum-half Harry Ellis crossing for a brace of scores.
Ellis, who was only called into the squad on Thursday following Danny Care’s failure to recover from an ankle strain, was joined on the scoreboard by former Leicester colleague Andy Goode, Wasps centre Ricki Flutey and Sale’s Mark Cueto.
Goode contributed a total of 16 points in his first international since November 2006, while Cueto’s try came in his first appearance since the 2007 World Cup Final in Paris.
Brive fly-half Goode’s selection ahead of Danny Cipriani and Shane Geraghty had been a major talking point throughout the build up to the match but the 29-year-old soon settled any pre-match nerves with a second-minute try.
Goode gathered his own kick ahead to give England the perfect start – a start which they built on successfully to carry a 22-3 lead into the half-time interval after Ellis and Flutey both claimed tries.
Ellis’ second score killed the game as a contest, although the Italians did hit back through a Mirco Bergamasco try.
Cueto was the game’s final scorer with just two minutes remaining as England at least bounced back from their heavy November defeats to Australia, South Africa and New Zealand with a much-needed win.
Italy’s cause wasn’t helped by the inexperience of scrum-half Mauro Bergamasco, who was unable to get to grips with his new, unfamiliar position of scrum-half. Bergamasco had won close to 70 caps as a flanker but his hesitation at No9 created plenty of problems for the visitors.