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Preview: England v Italy

Fri, 14 Mar 2014 06:28
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England is a formidable challenge
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England need to bank maximum points against a struggling Italy while hoping France can defeat Ireland if they are to win the Six Nations Championship. 
 
With Ireland enjoying a significantly better points difference than the other two and with England better off than France, England head coach Stuart Lancaster will be looking for Les Bleus to do his side a favour on Saturday night
 
England's only defeat came in Paris in the opening round and coach Lancaster admits their only focus is securing a win in Italy.
 
"It's great to be able to name an unchanged starting fifteen and we have been able to achieve consistency of selection from a very competitive squad this campaign," he said.
 
(Lancaster has been forced into a late change with Joe Marler being replaced by Mako Vunipola with Matt Mullan coming in on the bench)
 
Lancaster has challenged his side to finish their Six Nations campaign on a high with the only change to his squad coming in the replacements where Manu Tuilagi takes Alex Goode's spot.
 
With inside centre Billy Twelvetrees also growing in confidence with every match, Lancaster was never likely to break up the blossoming partnership.
 
Having Tuilagi on the bench in Rome gives Lancaster the option of bringing him on as a replacement winger, when England will hope to emulate Ireland's rush of second half tries against a tiring Italian side.
  
Tuilagi returned to domestic action against Newcastle Falcons at the start of the month and Lancaster has seen enough in training to convince him the centre is ready for an international return.
 
"Manu trained well with us last week and today and is up to speed with the way we want to play," 
 
"Alex Goode has done well for us off the bench and is naturally disappointed but we believe Manu, with the power and physicality he can bring, is the right choice to be included in the 23 for this game," Lancaster said.
 
"The Wales result was very significant for us but we need to finish the tournament well in Rome. We have had a tight turnaround and the key this week has been to manage the players' recovery and get them in the best shape for what will be a tough match against Italy."
 
On the other side, the home team is in a very different position to England, they are looking to gain some pride out of a dismal 2014 season having not won a single game as well as being robbed in the final minutes of the game against Scotland.
 
Italy coach Jacques Brunel admits that coming up against the "very physical" English leaves its mark and he is expecting a tough encounter in a game whose result, he says, could determine how he classifies Italy's poor tournament so far.
 
"England is a formidable challenge, first of all because of their physicality. You know when you've played against England, because you feel it the next day." 
 
"England are coming to Rome to win the tournament, but they also have to hope results elsewhere go their way. With Ireland so far in front, they need a lot of points against us," said Brunel 
 
Although Italy lost heavily to Ireland last week, Brunel kept faith with the bulk of his starting side from Dublin, meaning there was no place at fly-half for Tommaso Allan.
  
After the defeat to Ireland, Brunel admitted one of his biggest tasks this week was keeping his players' minds focused on his long-term strategy of maturing in time for the World Cup in 2015.
 
"Our main problem this week was trying to maintain faith in our own style of game and our own potential," added Brunel.
 
"Some of our younger players are still growing, they haven't reached their potential yet."
 
However Brunel admitted that even a shock win against England would do little to erase what has been a mediocre campaign from the Azzurri.
 
"At the start of the tournament we set ourselves the objective of winning two games," said Brunel, who admitted their last-minute defeat to Scotland had dented morale.
 
"But the result from and the performance against Scotland was a blow and left us feeling disillusioned.
 
"If we beat England, then we could say 'it's a pity because we came close against Scotland and we had a good game against the Welsh' and so it would shed a more positive light on our campaign.
 
"But if we suffer heavy defeat on Saturday, then it will be a different appraisal altogether."
 
Players to watch:
 
For Italy: With the enigmatic no. 8 Sergio Parisse returning there is bound to be some excitement or at least controversy, he will also be one to watch. Luciano Orquera did well in a difficult game against Ireland and tried to bring some stability, as such the coach has kept his faith in him and should be one to keep your eye on.
 
For England: Mike Brown is having the season of his career and is growing with each game look out for him to score some tries for the English team that need to overtake the Irish points difference. If and when Manu Tuilagi comes off the bench expect the intensity to rise as this massive man makes his long awaited return.
 
Head to head: Ben Morgan and Sergio Parisse are two giants of the game in different ways, the bullocking runs by Morgan should see Parisse front up to him and try and stop the big English no. 8. Parisse is the figure head of the Italians and it must be said they do play better around him, if he steps up and battles with the well balanced English loose trio he may be able to give Italy some good front foot ball.
 
Prediction: England know what they need and its points, they have a shot at the title so they will be motivated. Italy have had a terrible tournament and look they just want it all to be over. Expect the English to come out firing and Italy to roll over quickly - it could be a massacre. England by 20+
 
Teams:
 
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Alberto De Marchi, 19 George Biagi, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Andrea Masi
 
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 George Ford, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
 
Date: Saturday, March 15
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 13.30 (12.30 UK time; 12.30 GMT)
Predicted Weather: No chance of rain and mild tempretures
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
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