Sport Rugby

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Brown fears chasing big score would be risky ploy for England

Alex Lowe

England can tighten their grip on the Six Nations title with a heavy victory over Italy on Sunday – but Mike Brown insisted they will not go into the game deliberately chasing a cricket score.

England's average win over Italy at home is 48-11, and a repeat of that this weekend would boost their points difference healthily heading into the final round of the championship.

Stuart Lancaster's unbeaten men have a 17-point cushion over Wales, who they play in Cardiff on March 16, and they are 28 points better off than Scotland.

But England have their eyes on a bigger prize. A victory of any description over the Azzurri would tee up a shot at the Grand Slam when England head to the Millennium Stadium.

And full-back Brown insisted winning must be England's only focus against an Italian side buoyed by the return of their No 8 and captain Sergio Parisse.

"We are just focused on winning the game and how we are going to do that. Scoring a lot of points doesn't matter," said Brown (below).

"It is going to be a tough test. If we take our eye off the ball we will be turned over. We saw what they did to France."

England have not won a Grand Slam since 2003, when the team captained by Martin Johnson conquered Europe before being crowned world champions.

Lancaster and his management team are preparing for Italy and Wales as one Grand Slam project because of the short six-day turnaround between games.

Lancaster will name his side to face Italy today and it is expected to feature a handful of changes, with Toby Flood replacing the injured Owen Farrell while prop Mako Vunipola is set to make his first Test start.

Tom Youngs, James Haskell and Danny Care are also pushing for recalls while Tom Croft could make his return via the bench, having recovered from a career-threatening neck injury.

Irish Independent

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