Saturday, February 10, 2007

England v Italy (Sat)

from the bbc:

England aim to continue their revival under head coach Brian Ashton when they face Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.

Jonny Wilkinson inspired England to a 42-20 win over Scotland last week and he can become the highest points scorer in championship history against Italy.

There are two changes to the starting XV, Nick Easter and Iain Balshaw replacing Joe Worsley and Olly Morgan.

Italy coach Pierre Berbizier has made seven changes to his starting line-up following the 39-3 defeat by France.

England are in buoyant mood following the Calcutta Cup victory on Saturday which saw returning fly-half Wilkinson claim 27 points in a stunning display.

And Wilkinson's first score against Italy will take him past former Wales star Neil Jenkins as the most prolific points accumulator in Five or Six Nations Championship history.

Wilkinson is currently tied with Jenkins on 406 points.

The Newcastle fly-half will also, if he gets on the board, join a select group of players to have racked up 900 points in international rugby.

The Scotland match was Brian Ashton's first game in charge following Andy Robinson's sacking in November, which came after a run of eight defeats in nine Tests.

And although England claimed a comfortable win, Ashton wants an improvement from his side on Saturday.

"We have talked about the mentality of winning, and we have enough experience in this team now to know what it takes to win Test matches," he said.

"Italy will take us on in the scrum and in the lineout, they will box-kick and they will be very confrontational.

"The lineout could be a huge theatre because Italy did a lot of damage to France in that area. I do know it will be a battlefield between numbers eight down to number one, and whatever the weather throws at us, we will throw it right back. It is not a concern.

"Discipline is hugely important, and conceding 14 penalties last week was unacceptable.

"You are never 100% happy as a a coach. For example, we didn't get enough go-forward possession in the first 20 minutes last Saturday - there was too much of us going from side to side."

england should land this comfortably...

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