belfasttelegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Brown: England won't over elaborate

Mike Brown has warned England against taking Italy lightly

England can tighten their grip on the RBS 6 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. But Brown insisted winning must be England's only focus against an Italian side buoyed by the return of their number eight 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," Brown said. "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."

Stuart Lancaster's unbeaten men already 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 a bigger prize awaits as victory of any description over the Azzurri would tee up a shot at the Grand Slam when England head to the Millennium Stadium.

Lancaster and his management team are preparing for Italy and Wales as one Grand Slam project because of the short six-day turnaround between matches. Although the squad are anxious not to get ahead of themselves, number eight Tom Wood has urged them to embrace the fact they are striving for something special.

In 2011, England travelled to Dublin chasing a Grand Slam and were blown away by an Ireland side fired up to ruin the party, and Brown was adamant his side were wary of taking things easy.

"We are just looking at this one game, the same approach we have taken throughout the tournament," Brown said. "We are hard on each other after every game. We always want to improve. As a professional you always come off thinking 'I could have done this better or that better'.

"That is what makes every player in this squad so good. We enjoy winning, that is why we are here, but you know you have another job coming up. We have to keep working hard because if we take our eye off the ball for one second we will get turned over as a team or you will lose your place, because competition is so strong."

Lancaster will name his side to face Italy on Friday and it is expected to feature a handful of changes, with Toby Flood replacing the injured Owen Farrell while 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 international return via the bench, having recovered from a career-threatening neck injury.

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