Rusty England march on

 
Frank Dalleres
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Lancaster demands improvement for decider in Cardiff

SIX NATIONS

ENGLAND 18 vs ITALY 11

ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has ordered his players to drastically improve on yesterday’s scrappy RBS Six Nations victory over Italy, or risk having a first grand slam for a decade scuppered by Wales next weekend.

Only desperate defending in the final 10 minutes prevented Italy from recording a first ever win at Twickenham, having already scored the only try of an attritional contest through Luke McLean.

Recalled fly-half Toby Flood’s six penalties proved sufficient to earn England a fourth win from four fixtures at this year’s championship, though ham-fisted handling rarely threatened the try line.

Wales can deny Lancaster’s men the title and a first grand slam since their World Cup-winning year of 2003 if they triumph by eight points or more in Saturday’s decisive showdown in Cardiff.

“It’s set up for a fantastic occasion. We have to improve on that performance and it’ll be a massive step for us,” he said. “We got the win but it’s a quiet changing room. At half-time we weren’t quite accurate enough but we still felt in control, but we let that control slip and Italy pushed us right to the end.”

England captain Chris Robshaw admitted they would have to sharpen their attacking play for the trip to the Millennium Stadium, conceding that yesterday’s performance had been disappointing.

“Of course it was, but it was important to get a win. We were under no illusion how hard it would be,” said the Harlequins skipper.

“We weren’t great but it’s a win at the end of the day. There were moments when we played very well and the attack was flowing but the final bit of execution let us down. There’s a lot of work to do going into Wales next week.”

England’s best chance of a try came at 6-3 up midway through the first half when wing Chris Ashton was halted yards from the posts and then Flood failed to touch down after tumbling over the line. Italy then had scrum-half Edoardo Gori sin-binned for a cynical foul on Flood but England could only add two more penalties before the break. Two incidents in a minute transformed the visitors fortunes. First, Luciano Orquera slotted his second penalty to make it 15-6, before his astute kick allowed McLean to cross in the corner for 15-11.

Orquera’s missed conversion and later penalty let England off the hook, but only dogged late defending denied the Italians a famous and damaging win.