x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

England have 'work to do' ahead of Grand Slam meeting with Wales

Captain Chris Robshaw concedes their win over Italy in Six Nations match was hard-fought and that there is room for improvement.

Toby Flood, centre, the fly-half who was recalled for yesterday's game, kicked all of England's points with six penalties. Eddie Keogh / Reuters
Toby Flood, centre, the fly-half who was recalled for yesterday's game, kicked all of England's points with six penalties. Eddie Keogh / Reuters

England came through a huge scare to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive with an unconvincing 18-11 victory over Italy in the Six Nations championship at Twickenham.

When Italy scored the only try of the match, through their Australia-born wing Luke McLean in the 49th minute, they cut England's lead to 15-11.

But England, with the recalled fly-half Toby Flood kicking all of their points with six penalties, hung on to set up a title-decider away to Wales on Saturday.

A Wales victory at the Millennium Stadium will deny England a first Grand Slam since their World Cup-winning year of 2003.

England went into yesterday's match having won all their previous 18 Tests against Italy. But come the finish they were forced into some desperate scrambling as Italy laid siege to their line. And while the England captain Chris Robshaw hailed a battling win he acknowledged improvements were needed before the Grand Slam showdown with Wales.

Robshaw told BBC 1: "Of course it was [disappointing], but it was important to get a win.

"We were under no illusion how hard it would be, especially after how hard it was in Rome last year.

"We weren't great today 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 head coach Stuart Lancaster was honest about the need for a better showing from his side in Cardiff on Saturday.

Asked if he felt it was the most disappointing display of the tournament to date, he said: "Yes, I think so. In the second half there was no doubt about that.

"At half time we weren't quite accurate enough but we still felt in control of the game, but I felt we let that control slip and Italy pushed us right to the end.

"We have to improve on that performance and it will be a massive step for us. We got the win today but it's a quiet changing room and we'll take the lessons out of this.

"It's set up for a fantastic occasion [against Wales]."

Wales are in a position to not only spoil England's Grand Slam party, but also take the Six Nations title next weekend.

But, having played them both, the Italy full-back Andrea Masi expects Lancaster's men to edge it.

"It's going to be a tough game but I think England are a bit more dangerous than Wales," he said.

"We were quite happy to compete against England. This was a very good performance by Italy. We came from two poor games and today we played better rugby - more aggressive, much more physical."


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