ENGLAND under 20s opened the defence of their Six Nations title with a 27-17 bonus-point victory over Italy.

England had the narrowest of leads at the break, taking a one-point advantage into half-time thanks to James Grayson’s penalty and Ben Earl’s try.

However, three second-half tries from Ben White, Tom Parton and Ben Loader as well as two conversions from Grayson on his first start stretched the lead and although Italy were awarded a late penalty try England sealed the win.

For several of England’s players, Friday’s game marked their debut with the U20s with Toby Trinder, Worcester Warriors lock James Scott, Sam Moore, Tom Willis, Fraser Dingwall, White and Loader all winning their first caps.

Warriors centre Will Butler also started.

Head coach Steve Bates said: “It was a really credible performance in difficult conditions.

“We’ve scored four tries, two of them from really well-worked moves. We fought hard and dominated the game territorially. I thought it was a really good start.

“The starting 15 laid a fantastic foundation which allowed us to make a number of replacements and give a lot of players their debut and conserve some bodies for next Friday.

“This is a squad full of talented players and selecting a starting 15 has not been easy and the replacements that came on did a really good job.

“We’ll recover now after what was a tough and physical game.

"We’ll analyse this match and look to go back to our principals of playing high-intensity, high-tempo rugby, which are important to us, but what we did was a good foundation for us to go on in the tournament.”