England were dealt another crushing fitness setback as their troubled RBS 6 Nations campaign rolled into Rome.
Sporting Life reports that Captain Phil Vickery, who had been troubled by a calf muscle problem since Thursday, was a late withdrawal due to a stomach bug.
It meant Bath lock Steve Borthwick taking over as England skipper for the first time, with his club colleague Matt Stevens packing down at tighthead prop and uncapped Bristol forward Jason Hobson joining the replacements.
England, beaten at home by Wales last weekend, had already lost Mike Tindall, David Strettle, Andrew Sheridan, Lewis Moody and Tom Rees from their plans before Vickery cried off.
Former Bradford Bulls rugby league star Lesley Vainikolo made his full England debut on the wing, while flanker Michael Lipman was handed a first Six Nations start in a back-row that also included recalled World Cup number eight Nick Easter.
Italy coach Nick Mallett made one change from the side narrowly beaten by Ireland in Dublin last Saturday, fielding Overmach Parma’s Ezio Galon on the left-wing.
England, who were greeted by warm sunshine at Stadio Flaminio, had won on all four of their previous visits to the ground, averaging just over 46 points a time.Tweet