Italy eager to bounce back against England

The coach of the Italian rugby team Jacques Brunel told The Local on Thursday that he hoped that Italy would play as well as they did in 2013 when they will face England at Twickenham this Saturday, despite a big loss against Ireland in Rome last week.

Italy eager to bounce back against England
Ireland's fly-half Ian Madigan (C) is tackled by Italy's fly-half Tommaso Allan (R) during the Six Nations match between Italy and Ireland on February 7th. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“I hope Italy will play as well as they did against England in 2013,” Jacques Brunel, the Italy rugby coach told The Local on Thursday at Rome's Fiumicino airport as the team prepared to fly to England.

“But England is a strong team. Ireland is strong too but we hope that as the tournament progresses we’ll build our strength too.”

In 2013 Italy gave England a real scare with the hosts needing Toby Flood to kick all the points in an 18-11 win which saw Luke McLean grab the only try for the visitors.

With that in mind, England head coach Stuart Lancaster has demanded that captain Chris Robshaw and his slow-starting players must make a faster and more positive opening than they managed in the win over Wales in their tournament opener last week.

The Local's Angela Giuffrida meets Italy's rugby team on their way to England for the Six Nations.

Lancaster was adamant the memory of Italy's last Twickenham visit will be enough to keep the threat of over-confidence and complacency from derailing his side on Saturday.

Italy slumped to a big loss against Ireland in Rome in the opening round of Six Nations fixtures last week and have again been written off as probable recipients of the wooden spoon.

Having settled some old scores in Cardiff, and laid down a solid platform for a potentially successful Six Nations campaign, England face a different proposition in the shape of the Azzurri.

They will be expected to win convincingly and in some style with a packed home crowd keen for the men in white to prove their World Cup credentials with the clock ticking to England 2015 a mere seven months away.

Yet a cautious Lancaster, who revealed that experienced Bath prop David Wilson will have neck surgery and be out for 10 to 12 weeks, said: "One thing you certainly learn over the years in top rugby is that you never under-estimate or take the opposition for granted.

"That's especially the case in the Six Nations where each team can beat the other on any given day.

"If you have one off day you usually get beat. So the plan is not to have an off day, or lower your level of performance or standards. We know full well what Italy are capable of doing on their day.

"They pushed us very close two years ago in a very tough match. We were never really comfortable at any stage because their forwards were really up for it.

"So it really is important that the guys pick up where we left off against Wales and, instead, of finding ourselves 10-0 behind early doors, we find ourselves in the ascendancy from the very start."

Fast start

Ben Youngs agrees with Lancaster's verdict and the England and Leicester scrum-half said: "We can talk for ten days about getting a fast start but it's no good if you don't go out there and execute one.

"We have to stop playing catch up rugby and make the opposition chase us."

Lancaster hopes continuity will be the key, naming the same team and replacements as the 21-16 win in Cardiff.

That means Bath's Jonathan Joseph and Saracens' George Kruis will get their first Twickenham starts on Saturday.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made four changes to his side which came up well short during their Rome encounter last weekend.

Veteran lock Marco Bortolami steps back into the second row for his 111th cap while another centurian, flanker Mauro Bergamasco, pick up his 101st cap as Italy attempt to bounce back from the 26-3 loss to Ireland.

Brunel hopes his men can repeat their battling performance the last time they visited Twickenham.

"We must match England up front again. If the forwards can do that and keep the crowd quiet, then we can give England problems," he said.

"We must also prove we are a better team than the Ireland defeat."

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Italy’s rugby team don rainbow laces for Welsh legend

Italy's rugby team will wear rainbow laces during Saturday's game against New Zealand in support of former Wales captain Gareth Thomas.

Italy's rugby team don rainbow laces for Welsh legend
England's flanker Chris Robshaw wears rainbow laces at Saturday's game with Samoa. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP
Ahead of their meet in Rome, the Italian rugby federation tweeted that the move was “a gesture of solidarity” with the player. 
Wales, who face Fiji, and France, who play South Africa, have already said their players will be wearing rainbow laces during their games on Saturday. 
England, who play Australia, said they may not be able to join the effort because the rainbow laces do not fit into their boots.
Former Wales captain Thomas, 44, who came out as gay in 2009, posted a video on Twitter on November 18 saying he had been a victim of a hate crime in Cardiff “for my sexuality”.
Police dealt with a 16-year-old boy using restorative justice following a request by Thomas, who wanted to send a “positive message”.