Lancaster trusts continuity to breed improved display
ITALY vs ENGLAND
ENGLAND coach Stuart Lancaster has backed his embryonic side to learn the lessons of last week and sharpen their attacking threat when they collide with Italy tomorrow in the Six Nations.
Lancaster has kept faith with the same team that eked out a 13-6 victory over Scotland in their opening fixture, despite the unconvincing nature of their triumph at Murrayfield.
But the interim head coach has warned his nascent outfit that he expects them to stay on the front foot and make better use of possession against ever-improving Italy in the Stadio Olimpico.
And he is banking on using replacements such as No8 Ben Morgan, who is pushing Phil Dowson hard for a starting place, to inject extra momentum after half-time as Lancaster looks to make it two wins from two.
“Italy will be a very difficult challenge with nearly 700 caps in their starting line-up and it promises to be an outstanding occasion at the sold-out Stadio Olimpico,” he said.
“The bench is an important dynamic for us, in the same way it was last week. The likes of Ben Morgan coming on in the second half will bring power and tempo to our game.
“Where we struggled at points against Scotland we didn’t retain enough quality possession. We need to make sure we give ourselves more time with the ball and less time defending.”
Fly-half Charlie Hodgson, who again forms an all-Saracens midfield with Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt, and replacement scrum-half Lee Dickson both shook off injury in time to fly to Rome yesterday afternoon.
Lancaster has repeatedly drummed home the emphasis he places on team spirit and togetherness, and hopes keeping faith with the same side will “allow them more time to gel together”.
Italy and Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni, meanwhile, admits the home side will need to master a flawless display if they are follow last year’s shock win over France with another Six Nations upset.
“A lot of people think we have the opportunity to win but it’s going to be a tough game because England have a massive pack of forwards,” said Castrogiovanni. “England put a lot of pressure on at the scrum. They will attack us where we are strongest and we need to be prepared for them. If we are to win then we need to play the perfect game.”
ENGLAND TEAM | TO FACE ITALY
15. Ben Foden (Northampton Saints)
14. Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints)
13. Brad Barritt (Saracens)
12. Owen Farrell (Saracens)
11. David Strettle (Saracens)
10. Charlie Hodgson (Saracens)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
1. Alex Corbisiero (London Irish)
2. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
4. Mouritz Botha (Saracens)
5. Tom Palmer (Stade Francais)
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
7. Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt)
8. Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints)
Replacements: Rob Webber (London Wasps); Matt Stevens (Saracens); Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers); Ben Morgan (Scarlets); Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints); Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins); Mike Brown (Harlequins)