Preview: England v Italy
Fri, 08 Mar 2013 11:32
We are just focused on winning the game
A convincing victory for England on Sunday against Italy will stand them in great stead to go on to win their first Grand Slam since 2003.
One would suspect that England will win this game well because of current form and the fact that Italy have never beaten England in this competition.
However, one would not have forecast pre-tournament favourites France would now be bottom of the table and facing the prospect of a first whitewash in more than 50 years.
Mike Brown, has retained his place on the left wing this weekend, insisted there was no danger of England getting ahead of themselves against an Italy side who blew the Championship wide open by beating France in the first round.
"We are just focused on winning the game and how we are going to do that. Scoring a lot of points doesn't matter," Brown said.
"It is going to be a tough test. If we take our eye off the ball we will be turned over. We saw what they did to France," added Brown.
England coach Stuart Lancaster has already hinted he will pick a changed team to face the Azzurri, ahead of next week's finale against Wales in Cardiff.
One alteration is enforced, with the experienced Toby Flood replaces the injured Owen Farrell at flyhalf.
Meanwhile prop Mako Vunipola makes his first Test start, with scrumhalf Danny Care, flank James Haskell and hooker Tom Youngs all being recalled to the starting XV.
Loose-forward Tom Croft makes a return to international rugby after recovering from what could have been a career-threatening neck injury.
Italy received welcome news on Wednesday when influential captain Sergio Parisse, one of the world's leading No. 8's, was cleared to face England.
Parisse was banned for 30 days after being sent off for verbally abusing a referee while playing for club side Stade Francais against Bordeaux-Begles in a French domestic match on February 16.
The referee, Laurent Cardona, accused the Argentine-born Azzurri star of insulting him in English, a charge that multi-lingual Parisse has vehemently denied.
Under standard rugby procedure, a ban imposed in one competition also covers all others and Parisse was facing the prospect of missing out at Twickenham.
But he won his appeal and the relief for Italy in having available a player for whom the word 'talismanic' might have been invented was palpable, with coach Jacques Brunel wasting no time in restoring Parisse to the squad.
"Sergio [Parisse] is an important element in this group and we cannot be anything but delighted that he will be available to the coach Brunel, for the matches against England and Ireland," said Italy team manager Luigi Troiani.
Players to watch:
For England: The player that Italy are going to have to watch out for has to be Manu Tilagi. The Samoan-born centre found his feet in the game against France and if given the ball in space there is very little chance of stopping him before he gets over the advantage line. Amongst the forwards Joe Launchbury has been the unsung hero of the England pack since their famous victory over New Zealand in December but his lock partner Geoff Parling has also been incredibly strong and the pair of them have played a massive part in the English revival under Lancaster.
For Italy: The Italians will be bouyed by the return of Sergio Parisse after his ban was reduced. Italy will look to him for inspiration on attack and will be hoping that he can produce some magic for the Azzurri. Stalewart Martin Castrogiovanni is another player that will have to play well if Italy have any chance of taking down the English. Andrea Masi is the backline player that has a massive influence on the way that the Italians play. His predigious boot will have to be on song on Sunday so he can turn the England pack and keep Italy on the front foot.
Head to head: Tom Wood's (England) match-up with Sergio Parisse (Italy) will be a contest of epic preportion and Wood has had a solid season but Parisse is a player that is a fan of the big game. The pressure of carrying the Italian side is something that he thrives on. The next showdown has to be in the front-row as Mako Vunipola (England) gets a start and has to take on the experienced Martin Castrogiovanni up front. Vunipola has been used as a substitute throughout his career and going up against a fresh Castrogiovanni could be an incredibly tough ask.
2012: England won 19-15, Rome
2011: England won 59-13, London
2010: England won 17-12, Rome
2009: England won 36-11, London
2008: England won 23-19, Rome
2007: England won 20-7, London
2006: England won 31-16, Rome
Prediction: The Italians are always incredibly fired up for these fixtures but when they play away from home they seem to be a completely different side. They cannot front up as well as they do when they play at home. With this in mind I really do not see them beinn much of a challenge for a very impressive England team. Even without Owen Farrell they have a reliable goal-kicker in the form of Toby Flood and in the one-on-one match-ups they have too much strength for the Italians.
England have too much class and confidence - England will win by at least 25 points.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown,10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 James Haskell, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 David Wilson, 18 Joe Marler, 19 Courney Lawes, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Gonzalo Canale, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto de Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Andrea Lo Cicero, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Francesco Minto, 21 Simone Favaro, 22 Tobias Botes, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Date: Sunday, March 10
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Predominantly cloudy weather with a gentle north-easter blowing at 15 miles-per-hour. Maximum temperatures of 4°c and a minimum of -2°c
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
AFP & rugby365
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