Italy's Braam Steyn likens record-chasing England to All Blacks
Italy flanker Braam Steyn has likened in-form England to world champions New Zealand ahead of Sunday's RBS 6 Nations clash at Twickenham.
England can stretch their national record winning streak to 17 Tests with victory over the Azzurri, and in the process take another step closer to recording back-to-back Grand Slams.
A win would also see Eddie Jones' side move to within one victory of matching the record of 18 successive Test wins that New Zealand set last year - and Steyn believes England can now be spoken of in the same breath as the mighty All Blacks.
The South Africa-born flanker, 24, said on www.federugby.it: "We are facing a very strong and gutsy team. At the moment they are almost on a par with the All Blacks.
"I faced England when I was playing with South Africa Under-20s and you could already see those players had a very high standard."
Italy prop up the Six Nations table after losing at home to both Wales (33-7) and Ireland (63-10), and yet another wooden spoon beckons for the Azzurri unless Conor O'Shea's men can turn things round in their final three matches.
Steyn, who replaces Maxime Mbanda in the XV having started on the bench last time out, added: "The defeat to Ireland was tough. We've analysed our mistakes. We have to keep focused for the entire 80 minutes.
"The journey we've started with Conor is not easy but we have the right motivation to continue along the path we've begun under him."
Michele Campagnaro has also been drafted into O Shea's starting line-up and the Exeter back is hoping to emulate his club form on the international stage.
He has scored eight tries in eight appearances for the Chiefs this season - including one in last weekend's 48-32 Premiership win over Worcester
The 23-year-old said: " I'm happy that I've increased my personal tally, and I hope to do likewise with Italy. What matters most to me is giving 100 per cent for the shirt."
He added of Sunday's clash: "It's not easy to go and face England at Twickenham."
Fly-half Tommaso Allan and wing Giulio Bisegni will also start as Italy make four changes to face the reigning champions.