Tuesday 24 April 2018

O'Shea plans change for showdown with 'great side' Ireland

Italy 15 England 46

O’Shea: Facing a six-day turnaround. Photo: Getty Images
O’Shea: Facing a six-day turnaround. Photo: Getty Images
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Sergio Parisse is a doubt for Italy's trip to Dublin this week as Conor O'Shea plans to change-up his battered side after a bruising defeat to England in Rome.

Faced with a six-day turnaround before the Aviva Stadium clash, the former Ireland full-back will freshen up his team and says they need to be more disciplined on Saturday.

England's Owen Farrell takes a penalty kick. Photo: Getty Images
England's Owen Farrell takes a penalty kick. Photo: Getty Images

England secured the bonus point with their seven-try haul on a sun-lit Roman day, but their weekend was marred by a potentially serious knee injury suffered by scrum-half Ben Youngs.

Italy created a number of opportunities, but ultimately couldn't handle the more accurate English attack.

"I am proud and angry," O'Shea said. "We played against a great side, No 2 in world, and we caused them a lot of problems with the ball. I hate sitting here at the moment because we have lost, but in terms of where this team is going and what we are creating it is a step forward.

"The growth of the two franchises will take time. It's a project. The growth of Italian rugby and the challenges we face will take time. We are sure of the road we are on. We have to have resilience. I am stubborn. I am here for Italian rugby, to make it better, and hopefully we are seeing the beginnings of that.

England players celebrate their victory. Photo: Getty Images
England players celebrate their victory. Photo: Getty Images

"Against Ireland we need to be disciplined, and if we are going to play we need to respect the ball. They are a great side."

The result sets up a mouth-watering encounter between England and Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.

Eddie Jones' team will need to be more authoritative in all that they do; although their scrum was impressive, their defence less so at times. Their attack, led by two-try cameos from Anthony Watson and Six Nations newcomer Sam Simmonds, offered plenty with the fulcrum of George Ford and Owen Farrell always busy.

No 8 Simmonds grew in influence, while wingers Watson and Jonny May were threatening.

Italy's Matteo Minozzi vies for the ball with England's Anthony Watson. Photo: Getty Images
Italy's Matteo Minozzi vies for the ball with England's Anthony Watson. Photo: Getty Images

In the end Italy's line was breached seven times, but England were made to work by a team that had nine starters with 10 caps or fewer.

Jones had urged his players to set the tone for their campaign by putting the Azzurri to the sword and they responded, but there will be plenty to pick apart, not least the way they were exposed out wide when leaking two tries.

However, from the moment Watson ran in the opening try after 172 seconds, a 24th straight victory over Italy looked assured.

George Ford was the ringmaster, springing into action after Ben Te'o made a strong carry with a wrap-around move and slick handling sending Watson over.

The Bath wing's second took more finishing but he was able to touch down with an outstretched arm after May had made the initial break in midfield.

England's Owen Farrell on the charge. Photo: Getty Images
England's Owen Farrell on the charge. Photo: Getty Images

Tommaso Benvenuti ran on to a long pass by Tommaso Allan to interrupt the flow of England's tries with a superb score, but soon after a gap appeared in midfield and Farrell shaped to pass before accelerating over.

For all their inexperience, Italy were generating plenty of possession and at times they attacked at pace only.

They were error-prone, however, and in the 52nd minute their line-out defence disintegrated to allow Simmonds to pierce through the middle and sprint over.

Italy's ongoing endeavour was rewarded when Mattia Bellini touched down in the left corner, but any hope of causing an upset expired when Farrell sent Ford over.

The home side were falling apart in the face of their opponents' superior conditioning, enabling Simmonds and Jack Nowell to help themselves to late tries.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport