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George Kruis braces England for Six Nations 'scrap' with Italy

Published 13/02/2016

England lock George Kruis is ready for an arm-wrestle against Italy
England lock George Kruis is ready for an arm-wrestle against Italy

George Kruis has prepared England for the type of arm wrestle that he believes Italy have turned into an art.

Eddie Jones' men continue their pursuit of the RBS 6 Nations title when they travel to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday for a fixture that has proved anything but routine in recent years.

On three of their last four visits to Rome, England have won by five points or fewer and have struggled to extract themselves from the attritional forward game at which Italy excel.

Jones' plan is to subdue an Azzurri team emboldened by last weekend's narrow defeat in Paris before cutting loose in the final quarter when the expected arrival of Danny Care, Maro Itoje and Jack Clifford will provide renewed energy.

Rather than criticise Italy's desire to turn the match into a slugfest that can make for a poor spectacle, Kruis admires their effectiveness.

"Italy are a team who want to slow everything down and to turn the game into bit of a scrap and a fight. Their ability to do that is an art in itself," Kruis said.

"We've seen that, especially in the set-piece where they try to slow it down and make it 50-50 instead of what we want. That will be a big challenge for us.

"Eddie wants us to play with tempo and play the sort of game that suits us. If we do that we'll get the result.

"We know that in recent times we have won by five points or less, and that speaks volumes in itself.

"Italy's captain Sergio Parisse is a massive talisman and gets them going, so we'll be looking to take him down early."

Jones has made three changes to the team that toppled Scotland 15-9 at Murrayfield last Saturday, promoting Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes and Mako Vunipola to the starting XV.

The most appealing selection is on the bench, however, where Itoje has been rewarded for an outstanding season at Saracens with a first appearance in England's matchday 23.

Still only 21 years old, the athletic lock is an exciting prospect who is being tipped to flourish in the Test arena by Kruis, a club colleague at Allianz Park.

"Maro has massive potential. Hopefully he'll fulfil it and I'm sure he will. He's a very good player and looks at the game in a lot of detail, putting the time in," Kruis said.

"He's also humble enough to know he has to keep his head down and keep working.

"He wouldn't be here with England unless he was ready to make the step up from club level.

"He'll bring what he does for Saracens to international level. He's a level-headed guy who has played in big games before.

"People say he's only played in club games, but at Saracens we've played at places like Clermont and Racing Metro. He'll do well."

While Itoje is beginning an international career that seemingly has a bright future, Kruis has already established himself as England's first-choice lock with a forceful, try-scoring performance against the Scots.

He has been entrusted with running the line-out and at Murrayfield it ran according to plan.

"I enjoy calling the line-out. I often look at it as a game within itself, like a puzzle, a game of chess. I wasn't too good at chess though!" Kruis said.

"It's something that you have to put the hours into and hopefully we get the rewards from that. You analyse your strengths and weakness and do the same for the opposition.

"And of course on game day there are so many different variables to take into account."

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