England must now wait on the outcome of France and Ireland’s meeting in Paris this evening.
Ireland will secure the title if they win by seven points, or with a bonus point. France can also win if they win with a bonus point and by a margin of 32 points.
Having been denied a warm-up by the Barbarians’ bad behaviour, England began their first match in seven months a point behind leaders Ireland, who also held an advantage of 23 on points difference.
In the race to chisel away at that advantage, England made the perfect start. Youngs, becoming England’s second centurion, dotted down under the posts after Mako Vunipola threw a lovely delayed pass to Owen Farrell.
He burst through from halfway and fed Youngs. Farrell converted, then took three points from a penalty in front of the posts.
And that was about it in terms of positive moments for England until half-time. They looked rusty.
After Kyle Sinckler’s pass went awry, Jake Polledri charged through to score, then debutant Jonny Hill was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle.
Sam Underhill went off with blood pouring from his head. Billy Vunipola and Tom Curry were drawn into scuffles.
And when England created a try-scoring position just before half-time, Italy turned over and then were only denied by strong work from George Furbank and Jonny May.
Italy had played with great spirit, and were celebrating every little success right in England’s faces.
Their only frustration was Polledri being banished to the bin for going in at the side. By the time he returned, England had extended their lead by seven.
It was Youngs who went over again, darting through when only the smallest gap appeared.
And shortly after Polledri returned, England’s other milestone man, Jamie George, winning his 50th cap, rumbled over from a maul.
As England brought on their replacements (including Tom Dunn and the Ollies, Thorley and Lawrence, for their debuts), Tom Curry jinked downthe blindside to score, securing the bonus point with 13 minutes to go.
They only managed one more try, from Henry Slade bundling over on advantage ball, and Farrell missed the last two conversions, meaning England missed out on an extra four points.
But they had done enough to keep themselves in contention, as eyes turned to Paris.
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