Six Nations: Marcus Smith inspires England to bonus-point win over Italy

England showed the ruthless streak demanded by Eddie Jones as they atoned for their shattering collapse against Scotland by outclassing Italy 33-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Jones had urged his team to “light up Rome” and in response they delivered a five-try rout orchestrated by man of the match Marcus Smith to inflict a 34th successive Championship defeat on the Azzurri.

England had stormed 21-0 ahead by half-time and Smith was at the heart of many of their best moments, but he truly shone when firing a superb missed pass to provide Elliot Daly with a simple try in the 45th minute.

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And unlike at Murrayfield a week earlier when he was replaced in the 63rd minute to widespread puzzlement, there was no sign of George Ford arriving off the bench until late on and this time Joe Marchant made way.

WHEN IN ROME: England's Marcus Smith scores in the 33-0 win over Italy. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Ben Youngs eventually joined him at half-back to equal Jason Leonard’s record as England’s most capped player on 114 appearances, with the round-three visit of Wales to Twickenham the likely setting for him to surpass the milestone.

But, having replaced the impressive Harry Randall, Youngs entered a team that were in the midst of losing their way as Italy discovered renewed purpose to spend long spells camped in opposition territory, albeit with little end product.

Leonard and Youngs are the only players with a century of England appearances and are 17 clear of the third name on the most-capped list, Dylan Hartley.

Owen Farrell, who has 94 with his six British and Irish Lions appearances lifting him to 100 international caps overall, is set to be the next man to reach the England landmark – though he will miss the whole Six Nations with an ankle injury and forward Courtney Lawes is not far behind him on 90. Worldwide, George Gregan is the only scrum-half to win more caps than Youngs – 139 for Australia – while only seven number nines have reached a century.

SEALED IT: England's Kyle Sinckler (right) celebrates with Charlie Ewels after scoring a try in Rome. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

His two appearances for the British and Irish Lions mean Sunday’s outing lifts Youngs to 116 international caps overall.

In Rome, an England side showing six changes in personnel following their Calcutta Cup setback struggled to reimpose themselves, taking some gloss off the victory.

Italy defended manfully for stretches and it took resilience to hold out against a sustained attack on their line in the first half, but they were also wasteful with the chances they created.

They traditionally provide stiff opposition for an hour until eventually being worn down, but it took just nine minutes for England to get off the mark when Max Malins and Smith combined for the fly-half to score.

Smith was looking to run the ball at every opportunity, but Italy also produced flashes of danger and, had their passing been more accurate, in the 17th minute they would have been over.

Jack Nowell was involved in much of England’s best work but he failed an HIA following a tackle and was replaced by Daly.

Big carries from Nick Isiekwe and Maro Itoje shoved Italy’s pack backwards and, as the pressure built, Jamie George burrowed over from close range.

To underline the threat of complacency, wing Federico Mori escaped down the right and might have crossed had Smith not made his covering tackle, but England were soon back on top.

The maul had been an effective weapon against Scotland but an attempt to launch it on the half-hour mark proved unsuccessful before Itoje had a try chalked off for offside. The first half finished with George using his strength to claim his second try but the damage was done by slick handling and a piercing run from Freddie Steward.

It began to look ominous for Italy as Randall weaved a path into space and their scrum conceded a penalty and, when England opted for the set-piece again, Smith flashed his classy long pass for Daly to score.

Wing Montanna Ioane caused havoc in the visiting defence, showing real gas until he was well tackled by Steward who, as the last man, needed to get the hit right.

Ioane’s run launched a period of Azzurri dominance that England just could not shake off and even Smith made a mistake as he knocked on in contact, but a breakaway try from Kyle Sinckler eventually completed the victory.

“I’ve never played here before, there was a special atmosphere, with loads of England fans having come out,” reflected Smith.

“We had to put a show on for them, we were a bit scrappy and credit to Italy but to score 33 points is always nice.

“To play alongside Harry [Randall] is special, we have a good connection off the field and I hope we have on it as well.”

While France currently have the upper hand in the Six Nations Championship following their win over Ireland, the standings are nicely poised going into a two-week break.

Only perennial wooden spoon winners Italy are out of title contention, with Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland each retaining hope of chasing down the pacesetters on the back of a win and defeat apiece.

For all of Les Bleus’ early promise, their rivals can perhaps take some comfort from them having had the benefit of two home matches.

In-form Ireland, in particular, should move forward full of confidence after continuing their progression under Andy Farrell by impressing in defeat in the French capital.