Martin Haag praised his England side’s attack after they began their World Rugby Under-20 Championship campaign with a bang, racking up six tries against their Italian counterparts in a 48-10 win at the Manchester City Academy Stadium.
Northampton Saints centre Harry Mallinder marked his first England Under-20 game as captain with a man-of-the-match performance as well as 12 points from the tee.
England’s youngsters were 17-3 ahead at the break after scores from flanker George Nott – who burst through the Italian defence to gallop home from inside his own half – and Sam Aspland-Robinson , with a conversion for both Theo Brophy Clews and Mallinder, who struck a penalty.
Leonardo Mantelli pegged the hosts back with a long-range drop goal, but Mallinder struck another penalty, Harlequin Joe Marchant and Bath Rugby’s Zach Mercer scored, while Jack Singleton continued his prolific form against the Italians with another dot down and England’s pack earned a penalty try.
Alessandro Troncon’s side grabbed a consolation try through Lorenzo Robin Masselli, but England began their quest for a third World Rugby Under-20 Championship title in style.
And former Bath stalwart Haag praised his side’s ambition after overcoming a determined first-half effort from Italy Under-20 – thanks in part to Mallinder’s boot.
“We played some great attacking rugby, with some real intent which is what we are trying to do,” the 47-year-old said.
“Credit must go to Italy, particularly for their strong start.
“We knew they would have a big 40, they put us under pressure, before knocking on over the line, but we were composed as a group and went down the other end and scored and had a couple of shots at goal which took the score away from them.
“We re-assessed at the break and came out with good energy and scored some great tries in the second half, I’m pleased with that.”
Next up for Haag’s men are Scotland Under-20s, who stunned their Australian counterparts 15-10 at the AJ Bell Stadium, with Bath’s Adam Hastings playing a critical role with the boot.
John Dalziel’s Scotland side claimed a first ever win over England at this level during the Under-20 Six Nations and Haag is determined that his side do not trip up against the Auld Enemy on Saturday.
"At times it wasn’t as accurate as we would have liked it to be. As a group we have standards we are aspiring to and want to express ourselves in our play,” he said.
“We had the intent but we just weren’t quite accurate enough but that will come. It was great to blow the cobwebs away and now we need to recover ahead of a big game on Saturday.
“I’m disappointed we conceded at the end, we need to play for the full 80 minutes.
"There is still plenty to work on but we’ll keep improving as we look ahead and move onto the next one.”
See the Future Stars of Rugby at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester this June. For more information, including how to buy tickets, visit http://www.englandrugby.com/u20championships/ #WorldRugbyU20s