LEWIS MOODY has warned England to expect a strong, physical battle when they lock horns with a powerful Italian side in Rome on Sunday.
The Leicester flanker, nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ for his combative style, is again expected to lead the England front line against an Azzurri front row which is seen by many as the toughest in the northern hemisphere.
Moody was a rare success for manager Martin Johnson in an otherwise disappointing autumn international series, and he continued his fine form in Saturday’s opening Six Nations victory over Wales at Twickenham.
But although England are red-hot favourites to add the scalp of the perennial strugglers on Sunday, Moody has warned his side they are in for a rough ride.
“In terms of physicality Italy are right up there as one of the best teams in the world. That is what their game is about,” the 31-year-old said. “Like Scotland, when they are at home they have an ability to pick themselves up by 50 per cent. It is going to take every bit of our dog, heart and enthusiasm to get a result in Rome.”
Moody, however, is just thankful to be back in an England shirt again having undergone surgery last year for a broken ankle, which almost ended his career.
“I have had three huge operations in the last two seasons and to come out the other side, after doubting whether I would, and to be able to play again with this team and pull on the jersey of England is huge for me,” he added. “I love it and I will make sure I make the most of every opportunity until those days are past.”
Johnson is expected to recall Riki Flutey to his side, due to be announced at lunchtime, after the Brive centre recovered from a thigh injury.
Captain Steve Borthwick is also expected to be named despite missing training yesterday through illness.