x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Robshaw says England’s focus is strictly on beating Italy and not on the title

Chris Robshaw knows England have never lost to Italy in 19 meetings, but the captain said his team enter Saturday’s match at Rome focused on winning, not on planning to put up a cricket score in their quest for the Six Nations title.

Chris Robshaw knows England have never lost to Italy in 19 meetings, but the captain said his team enter Saturday’s match at Rome focused on winning, not on planning to put up a cricket score in their quest for the Six Nations title.

England enter the final round level on points with Ireland and France. They enjoy a 29-point difference advantage over the French, but they trail Ireland by 49.

Their biggest winning margin against Italy is 60 points in a 67-7 success at Twickenham during the 1999 World Cup and it would take something similar to surpass the Irish if they defeat France today. Robshaw notes that England’s most recent matches with Italy have been close-run victories, 19-15 at Rome two years ago and 18-11 at Twickenham last year.

“Our perception inside the camp is it’s going to be a very tough game,” he said. “Look at the England performances and scores the last few times we’ve played Italy, a narrow win over there in the snow two years ago and it was only seven at Twickenham last year when they cut us open for a try and we didn’t score any.

“Whether it’s a concentration thing or the mental side of the game, we’ve sometimes been flat against Italy and when you compare them now with when they came into the Six Nations in 2000 they are an outstanding unit.” Realistically, England know they need France to prevent Ireland from winning to finish top of the pile. All they can take care of is the business of winning the match.

Stuart Lancaster, England’s coach, has named an unchanged side from the one that beat Wales 29-18 last weekend.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made only three changes to the side that started in the crushing 47-7 defeat to Ireland in Dublin but, crucially, he has welcomed back Sergio Parisse, the captain.

Brunel said: “If we beat England it would shed a more positive light on our campaign.”

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