GOODBYE Newcastle, Konnichiwa Japan. England’s World Cup send-off didn’t quite hit the heights of last month’s 50-point massacre of Ireland, but in front of a packed St James’ Park, Eddie Jones’ squad signed off their warm-up programme with another comfortable success.

Thirty-seven unanswered points, four second-half tries, and more importantly, no injuries. Jones will expect more urgency when the real business begins with England’s opening group game against Tonga in a fortnight’s time, along with a greater degree of composure at the breakdown, but given the lack of competitive edge to last night’s encounter, it was nevertheless a case of job done. Four years on from England’s World Cup humiliation on home soil, and the time for redemption has almost arrived.

Jones described the line-up for England’s final warm-up game as “mix and match”, with the head coach wanting to balance an understandable desire to guard against any last-minute injuries with an equally powerful urge to ensure his side travel to Japan on Sunday with a spring in their step.

Both aims were achieved, with the likes of Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola emerging intact, while fringe performers such as Anthony Watson, Ruaridh McConnochie and Piers Francis gained some game time that could come in useful if Jones is forced to shuffle his pack over the course of the next month-and-a-half.

A try-less first half resulted in some grumbles of frustration as Newcastle hosted its first England international, but things opened up in the second period as the sounds of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” cascaded down from the Gallowgate End.

Youngs, Joe Marchant, Ellis Genge and Watson crossed as Italy’s resilient defence finally cracked, and while the Italians passed up some second-half penalty opportunities to get themselves on the board, it is to England’s credit that they were able to sign off with a shutout against seasoned Six Nations opposition. The defensive nuts and bolts are clearly in working order.

The rest of last night’s game will rapidly be forgotten once the World Cup programme begins, but it was a significant night for Newcastle Falcons flanker Mark Wilson, who might have joined Sale Sharks on loan following his parent club’s relegation from the Premiership, but who continues to live just along the road from St James’ Park in Blaydon.

Wilson would have hoped for more of an opportunity to cut loose, but like the majority of his team-mates, most of his work was defensive in nature until the closing stages. He made one searing first-half break down the left touchline, but with Italy’s suffocating forward pack denying their opponents any space, his hopes of a Tyneside try came to nothing.

No one scored a try before the break, such was the lack of attacking cohesion on display. Had this been England’s first-choice line-up, Jones would have been extremely concerned, but the strange nature of the game mitigated against any criticism. With the real business of the World Cup looming large, this felt like a cross between a pre-season friendly and a Barbarian-style exhibition game. It was certainly not a time to be taking any unnecessary risks.

So, while Jonny May made a couple of galloping breaks and nonchalantly caught a couple of up-and-unders from Youngs, England’s backline initially found itself enveloped by the Italian defence.

Farrell kicked three penalties before the break – the decision to kick the third, just before the interval, was accompanied by a chorus of boos – and the fly-half’s willingness to take what was on offer underlined the extent of England’s struggles.

Their inability to control the breakdown was a surprise given the presence of Wilson and Vunipola in the back row, and their collective decision-making was somewhat muddled. Perhaps mindful of the pressure to put on a show, too many players found themselves trying to play in the wrong area of the field.

At least England’s defence was functioning effectively, most notably in an early five-minute spell when the Italian forwards were camped on the tryline, only to find themselves shuffled backwards thanks to a succession of thundering tackles. When the ball was eventually spun to Tommaso Benvenuti on the right-hand side, the centre was under so much pressure, he spilled awkwardly as he headed towards the corner.

As is the way of things on nights like this, the second half was punctuated with a series of replacements coming on to the field, and as the line-ups changed, so gaps began to appear.

England created two of them thanks to forceful charges from their replacement front rows, Genge and Kyle Sinckler, and the result was a field position within a yard of the Italian line. Sensing a lack of organisation in the defensive ranks, Ben Youngs picked up from the base of the ruck and casually dropped over to score.

A second try followed shortly after, with Wilson teeing up Marchant for a 30-yard sprint to the try line. The centre displayed a superb burst of pace as he sashayed past two defenders, but do not expect a repeat on the World Cup stage. Despite his involvement last night, Marchant is not part of the squad that will travel to Japan.

Genge is, and the replacement prop claimed England’s third try late on, rumbling over from a couple of yards after Farrell’s decision to kick for a close-range line-out was vindicated.

Farrell turned provider again with five minutes left, timing his pass to perfection to afford Anthony Watson a simple run in on the left-hand side.