England centre Jonathan Joseph sent an emphatic message to his doubters with a hat-trick of tries in a pitiless 40-9 Six Nations victory over Italy and was rewarded with some reassuring backing from coach Eddie Jones.
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The Bath player had a relatively lacklustre start to the year after a sparkling performance in Six Nations 2015 and has a clutch of rivals, with Elliot Daly to the fore, snapping at his heels.
But Joseph slammed the door with his treble, the first of which in the 53rd minute swung the game England's way.
At the post-match news conference, Jones jumped to Joseph's defence and interrupted a reporter who said there had been talk of Daly taking the No.13 shirt. "A lot of talk from you guys, not a lot of talk from me, let's get that right ... he wasn't under pressure for his spot," Jones said.
"He's got to be able to read the game well and he did that exceptionally well today. Last week [in the victory over Scotland] he did it exceptionally well and his defence today was very good. He is a seriously good player."
With Manu Tuilagi edging back to fitness and Henry Slade hopefully back into contention next season after his broken leg, the future is looking bright for England in the midfield area that has been a problem.
England's second-half onslaught will largely wipe away the memories of their first-half struggles as they laboured to an 11-9 lead at Stadio Olimpico.
Jones, however, said it was all part of the plan as they expected to rack up the points in the final quarter. "I was pleased by the way we put them away. In the end we were quite dominant," said the Australian. "We were quite brutal in the second half, really came off the line and hurt the Italians."
A bruised and disconsolate Sergio Parisse said he hoped the Azzurri could learn from errors such as their lack of organisation around the ruck, which, combined with losing four players to injury, left them an impossible task. "I'm very disappointed. I don't like this, you can't lose by 40 points," said the captain. "But this doesn't change anything, we will work harder and be more determined."