Ben Youngs, Joe Marchant, Ellis Genge and Anthony Watson all scored for the hosts after the interval, while captain Owen Farrell kicked 17 points in total to see off the challenge of a spirited but limited experimental Italian side.
Eddie Jones’ men struggled for attacking fluency during a somewhat disjointed first half that saw Farrell opt to kick three penalties – the last to a chorus of boos from a disgruntled Newcastle crowd, who were watching the first England Test match ever to be held in the north-east.
Jones opted to throw on replacement props Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler before the break and that duo carried strongly, providing the platform for the first try of the evening five minutes into the second half as man-of-the-match Youngs darted over from close range.
Italy – just as in the first half when Tommaso Benvenuti knocked on metres from the England line – were wasteful and let down by poor execution in attacking areas and were further punished when Youngs moved quickly after a scrum and fed Marchant to score his first try in international rugby.
The Harlequins centre was a surprise choice to start alongside Piers Francis in midfield given that he was not named in the final 31-man World Cup squad last month, but an impressive display will have assured Jones that he is ready to step up over the coming weeks if required.
Genge followed Marchant by notching his first England try with 11 minutes remaining after a strong rolling maul and Anthony Watson completed the scoring late on after running a perfect line and capitalising on Farrell’s expert short pass.
Farrell had no trouble converting each try and missed just once from the tee all evening after pushing a straightforward penalty wide of the posts.
After wins over Italy and Ireland and a split series against Wales, England – who will have to deal with minor knocks picked up by the likes of lock Joe Launchbury, Sinckler and replacement hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie – fly to Japan on Sunday and open their World Cup campaign against Tonga in Sapporo on September 22.
Conor O’Shea’s Azzurri, who were also heavily beaten by France seven days ago, take on minnows Namibia in Higashiosaka City earlier that same day.
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England starting XV v Italy
15 Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 35 caps)
14 Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
13 Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 2 caps)
12 Piers Francis (Northampton Saints, 7 caps)
11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 46 caps)
10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 72 caps) C
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 88 caps)
1 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 61 caps)
2 Jamie George (Saracens, 39 caps)
3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 88 caps)
4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 60 caps)
5 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 74 caps)
6 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 12 caps)
7 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons/Sale Sharks, 14 caps)
8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 44 caps)
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 14 caps)
17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 11 caps )
18 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 24 caps)
19 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 11 caps)
20 Matt Kvesic (Exeter Chiefs, 3 caps)
21 Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 3 caps)
22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 58 caps)
23 Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 7 caps)
Italy starting XV v England
15 Jayden Hayward (Benetton Rugby, 18 caps)
14 Mattia Bellini (Zebre Rugby Club, 18 caps)
13 Giulio Bisegni (Zebre Rugby Club, 12 caps)
12 Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Rugby, 58 caps)
11 Edoardo Padovani (Zebre Rugby Club, 21 caps)
10 Carlo Canna (Zebre Rugby Club, 35 caps)
9 Callum Braley (Gloucester, 2 caps)
1 Nicola Quaglio (Benetton Rugby, 10 caps)
2 Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre Rugby Club, 8 caps)
3 Simone Ferrari (Benetton Rugby, 25 caps)
4 David Sisi (Zebre Rugby Club, 6 caps)
5 Dean Budd (Benetton Rugby, 22 caps) – captain
6 Sebastian Negri (Benetton Rugby, 19 caps)
7 Abraham Steyn (Benetton Rugby, 32 caps)
8 Jimmy Tuivaiti (Zebre Rugby Club, 4 caps)
16 Federico Zani (Benetton Rugby 10 caps)
17 Andrea Lovotti (Zebre Rugby Club, 37 caps)
18 Marco Riccioni (Benetton Rugby, 3 caps)
19 Federico Ruzza (Benetton Rugby, 14 caps)
20 Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Rugby, 114 caps)
21 Maxime Mbanda’ (Zebre Rugby Club, 17 caps)
22 Guglielmo Palazzani(Zebre Rugby Club, 33 caps)
23 Tommaso Allan (Benetton Rugby, 50 caps)
Joe Marchant starts for England tonight, despite the Harlequins centre not being included in the 31-man World Cup squad.
Billy Vunipola will also play his fourth successive match at No8, while Bath wing Ruaridh McConnochie – whose debut has been delayed by injury – earns his first cap in the back three alongside Anthony Watson and Jonny May.
Jonathan Joseph and Henry Slade remain absent.
Jones: It’s a mix and match selection policy
The inclusions of Marchant and Billy Vunipola have raised eyebrows in the build-up to tonight’s game, but Jones believes his selection is part of preparing the team for any situation that could arise in Japan.
“We are delighted to be playing against Italy, one of our traditional Six Nations rivals and the game for us is another important step to develop our game fitness and game strategy,” he said.
“We have had a solid training week in Treviso with hot conditions so we are looking forward to testing ourselves against Italy on Friday night. Then we hop on the plane and are ready to go to Japan.”
England make rare trip north
Tonight sees England play a Test match in the north-east of England for the very first time.
Outside of the World Cup they hosted in 2015, the last home Test the Red Rose played outside of Twickenham was 10 years ago against Argentina at Old Trafford.
“We are excited to be playing in Newcastle,” Jones said.
“We are playing at an iconic football ground and we know the area is an important one for rugby in the northern part of England.
“We are looking forward to seeing and playing in front of the fans.”
Some very sad news from South Africa, with television news channel eNCA reporting that former Springbok and 1995 World Cup winner Chester Williams died on Friday aged 49 of a suspected heart attack.
The RFU have tweeted: “Everyone at England Rugby is saddened to hear of the passing of Rugby World Cup winner Chester Williams. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Williams was a ‘true pioneer’
SA Rugby have now confirmed that Chester Williams died of a heart attack in Cape Town on Friday afternoon.
“The news of Chester’s passing is devastating and hard to believe, as he was still young and seemingly in good health,” said president Mark Alexander.
“Chester was a true pioneer in South African rugby and his performances at the World Cup in 1995, as a snapshot of his Springbok career, will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of our rugby public.
“As a member of the Springbok class of 1995, Chester was not only well-known in the rugby fraternity, but he was a much-loved South African whose influence stretched wider than just the rugby world.
“He was passionate about rugby and South Africa and as coach, at various levels, selflessly gave back to the game after he hung up his boots. He played with courage and was a beacon of light in his community and in the broader South African context.
“Chester Williams had so much more to give. Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife, Maria, his children, family and friends during this very sad time.”
10 minutes remaining until kick-off in Newcastle.
There is no Sergio Parisse tonight in an experimental Italy XV, with Dean Budd handed the captain’s role in his absence.
Conor O’Shea has made 11 changes to his team after a 47-19 hammering by France last time out.
The teams have emerged from the tunnel and it’s time for the national anthems.
2 mins: A bit nervy from Italy early on as Jonny May sets off in pursuit of an enticing kick.
England are in their red and dark blue change strip tonight, while Italy are all in blue.
The hosts will have the put-in at the scrum after a spill from English-born Gloucester scrum-half Callum Braley.
3 mins: A probing Ben Youngs’ kick caused all sorts of problems for the Azzurri.
The rapid May seizes on a loose ball, but he can’t find the offload and Italy scramble to clear their lines.
England, who manage to sustain the pressure, end up with the penalty after Carlo Canna is whistled for being off his feet at a ruck.
This will be an easy kick for home skipper Owen Farrell.
9 mins: Italy work through 20+ phases and remain patient after Joe Marler is initially caught with his hands in the ruck.
It looks like they will score the first try of the evening in the corner, only for Tommaso Benvenuti to inexplicably drop the ball close to the England line under big pressure from May.
Scrum red. A glorious opportunity goes begging for the visitors.
12 mins: After the usual scrum shenanigans, England force pressure and Italy are penalised for hinging.
Farrell boots the subsequent penalty clear.
15 mins: England come charging forward, with hooker Jamie George displaying his deft passing skills in wide areas.
However, Italy’s defence holds firm on this occasion, they secure the turnover and Jayden Hayward can clear.
A little break now for some injury treatment.
17 mins: England attack once more with a penalty advantage after Mattia Bellini is caught offside.
Good work driving after the lineout and more box-kicking from Youngs in the direction of May is causing Italy real strife.
Farrell points to the posts once more.
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