When in Rome, exploit back three
GIFT OF A WIN AT MURRAYFIELD
England’s opening Six Nations win in Scotland left me with mixed feelings. It was good to win, not having done so there for a while, and the young guys did well so they can enjoy that experience.
But I think the game was gifted to England more than they won it themselves and the concern is they didn’t threaten to score a try. While there was good scramble defence, there were too many busts of the England line. Scotland are probably the joint last team in the Six Nations, but that said it was an away win and England can go to Italy with confidence. They’re going to need to.
DOWSON UNDER PRESSURE
Stuart Lancaster is right to keep the same team, retain momentum and give them another chance. Even if England had lost at Murrayfield I think he’d have stuck with that line-up, because the last thing you want is to have young guys like Owen Farrell come in for one game, have a poor one and then go.
But there will come a time when players are not given a two-match cushion to play themselves in. If that performance had come later in the championship I think he’d have looked to make changes.
I think Phil Dowson needs to have the game of his life to keep his place. Is he a natural No8? He is under pressure and Ben Morgan did very well when he came on. Maybe Toby Flood should be on the bench, although Farrell can switch from centre to fly-half, so they have options.
ITALY TOUGHER THAN SCOTS
I’d suggest that tomorrow’s trip to Rome is actually a tougher fixture than Scotland. Italy are better and better every year, their state teams are improving in Europe and the Olympic Stadium will be full of 70,000-80,000 proud people.
Italy’s biggest problem is they haven’t got any world class backs. They used to try and throw it around but now they’ll probably try to dominate up front. England will be facing a pack that held its own against France and sometimes dominated, so I’d be very concerned about this game.
It’s a good opportunity for England to show their worth. There’s no doubt that the game to play against the Italians is to front up and move them around the pitch. But with 10, 12 and 13 coming from Saracens, who don’t play that way, it will be interesting to see how England try to get the back three into the game, which they need to do. I imagine they’ll try a lot of strike plays to get the back three involved. I just hope we don’t get sucked into win-at-all-costs mode and kick for the corners.