Preview: England v Italy

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 09:48
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SIX NATIONS ROUND THREE: Mike Brown says there is no complacency in the England camp ahead of their match against Italy in third round of the Six Nations on Sunday.

The Harlequins fullback has featured in both of England's wins so far in the competition and admits the clash against the Azzurri this weekend is not a difficult game to get motivated for.

"For me, it doesn't matter who we are playing, we're still putting on the England shirt and still working hard to achieve that ultimate goal of becoming the number one team in the world," he said.

The 31-year-old describes a camp 'striving for perfection', where hard work is a constant and preparation is the key to performing well.

Since their inaugural tournament, Italy has yet to register a win over England, and Brown is very matter-of-fact in his assertion of how his side must approach the Test match on Sunday if the trend is to continue.

"It means starting with our defence and making them uncomfortable. Making them force errors, and making them concede points off-the-back of our defence. Physically dominating them, making every play count in attack, scoring tries and playing at a tempo we want to play at," he added.

Having registered wins over France and Wales, England are currently top of the table and have won their last 16 Tests - 15 under the stewardship of Eddie Jones. Despite this, Brown remains respectful of the threat posed by Italy.  

"There is no complacency in this camp whatsoever, we're still working as hard this week as we were last week and the week before," he said.

Brown alludes to addressing 'frustrations' that crept into areas of England's game earlier in the tournament and says working harder in training is the most effective way to eradicate them.

"Playing for England is about putting everything out on the field. Frustrations urge us to want to get better. It drives us to work harder individually and as a team. That is why we train at a high intensity and strive to get better in all areas of our game," he stated.

England's strength-in-depth has been evident in their last two Tests, with the injection of the 'finishers' playing an important role in both, and it is a luxury Brown is thankful for.

"If you just look at the midfield and the range of skills we've got, we've got power, pace, handling skills, distribution, offloading and defensive skills, so whoever is picked we can play all different styles," he said.

Players to watch:

For England: Owen Farrell's kicking at goal will always keep his side's noses ahead but he will only be able to get that chance if his forwards do their work. The loose trio will be key to making this happen as their work at the breakdowns has been consistently good over the opening two rounds. Their pack of forwards should give them the platform to move the ball, which would bring their back three into the match.

For Italy: As always, Sergio Parisse is always one to watch as much of the team's confidence comes from his performance. Abraham Steyn has been handed a start and would want to put in a massive performance to repay his coach while Tommaso Allan will need to be the general to control matters. It will come down to the pack though and it could be an interesting tussle in the set-pieces.

Head to head: Italy centres Michele Campagnaro and Luke McLean might be licking their lips at the prospect of going up a new-look England centre combination in Owen Farrell and Ben Te'o but they will only be able to test themselves if they are given the chance by their flyhalf Tommaso Allan. Nathan Hughes will face a massive test as he will look to cut Parisse down to stem Italy's momentum. A lot will rest on the pack though as England are known to dominate the set-pieces and the breakdown. Italy will do themselves a massive favour by competing in those key areas.

Recent results:

2016: England won 40-9, Rome
2015: England won 47-17, London
2014: England won 52-11, Rome
2013: England won 18-11, London
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

Prediction: There is a slight glimmer of hope for the Italians based on the fact that England has not been playing to their best of abilities. Italy could cause a massive upset that could potentially blow the competition wide open. However, England has shown they have what it takes to pull through at the end of the match. It is for that reason, as well as them having home ground advantage that they should claim a comfortable victory by at least 30 points.

Teams:

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jonny May, 13 Ben Te'o, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 James Haskell, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Jack Nowell.

Italy: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Abraham Steyn, 5 Andries van Schalkwyk, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 George Biagi, 20 Maxime Mbanda, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.

Date: Sunday, February 26
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 15.00 (16.00 Italy time)
Expected weather: Expect a typical day in London as temperatures of 11 degress can be expected with a bit of a breeze.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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Fri, 24 March 2017
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SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
England 5 4 0 1 19
Ireland 5 3 0 2 14
France 5 3 0 2 14
Scotland 5 3 0 2 14
Wales 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 0