Ben Youngs sustains serious looking injury during England’s opening Six Nations win
- Credit: PA
Ben Youngs looks set for a lengthy lay-off with a serious looking knee injury sustained during England's opening Six Nations win against Italy.
The 28-year-old former Holt and North Walsham junior was forced off in the ninth minute when his knee joint buckled awkwardly as he was tackled.
Youngs, a former Gresham's School pupil, screamed out in pain and was driven from the pitch by the medical cart, enabling Danny Care to make his 77th Test appearance and equal Matt Dawson's record as England's most capped scrum-half.
Youngs' distress points to a significant lay-off and having relied on just two players in the position for virtually his entire reign, Jones will finally have to summon a third option.
'Ben will have an examination tomorrow (Monday) so we'll know more after that,' said Jones.
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'He's unlikely to be available for the Wales game next week. It's too early to make any sort of prediction, but I'm always optimistic.'
Youngs' injury took the gloss off England's impressive start to their bid to capture an unprecedented hat-trick of Six Nations crowns.
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The champions exploded out of the blocks by crossing twice through Anthony Watson inside the opening 10 minutes, but the overwhelming win their early onslaught appeared to signpost only materialised in the closing stages.
In the end Italy's whitewash was breached seven times in the bonus-point visit to the Stadio Olimpico, but England were made to work by a team that had nine starters with 10 caps or fewer.
Eddie Jones had urged his players to set the tone for their campaign by putting the Azzurri to the sword and they responded, but there will be plenty to pick apart, not least the way they were exposed out wide when leaking two tries.
However, the moment Watson ran in the opening try after 172 seconds, a 24th victory over Italy looked assured.
George Ford was the ringmaster, springing into action after Ben Te'o made a strong carry with a wrap-around move and slick handling sending Watson over.
The Bath wing's second took more finishing but he was able to touch down with an outstretched arm after Jonny May had made the initial break in midfield.
Tommaso Benvenuti ran on to a long pass by Tommaso Allan to interrupt the flow of England's tries with a superb score, but soon after a gap appeared in midfield and Farrell shaped to pass before accelerating over.
Time and again the Azzurri had to scramble furiously to keep the visitors at bay, but they were also asking questions of their own when in the 22 as they sought to mark lock Alessandro Zanni's 100th cap by recording a first win in the fixture.
For all their inexperience, Italy were generating plenty of possession and at times they attacked at pace only to met with a wall of white shirts.
They were error-prone, however, and in the 52nd minute their line-out defence disintegrated to allow Sam Simmonds to pierce through the middle and sprint over.
Italy's ongoing endeavour was rewarded when Mattia Bellini touched down in the left corner after England were exposed out wide for a second time, but any hope of causing an upset expired when Farrell sent Ford over.
The home side were falling apart in the face of their opponents' superior conditioning, enabling Simmonds and Jack Nowell to help themselves to late tries.