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Ashton hails improved discipline

Chris Ashton believes life on the straight and narrow is already paying dividends for England as they prepare to tackle Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.

England opened their RBS 6 Nations title defence with a committed and, crucially, a well-disciplined 13-6 victory over Scotland last weekend. Despite making more tackles than ever before in a Test match - 238 by their own count - England conceded just nine penalties at Murrayfield.

It was a far cry from some of the dark disciplinary days under Martin Johnson, when England were often guilty of haemorrhaging penalties and points, and Ashton said: "It's a mind-set in the team now, with people realising the impact it can have on a game if we keep giving away penalties. It is massive for us."

He added: "At the World Cup it cost us a lot and in the end it is what got us knocked out, basically. It is something we have focused on a lot.

"Sometimes when you are involved with the team, you can't see that [behaviour off the pitch could influence performance on it]. Sometimes it takes someone like Stu [Lancaster] to come in from the outside and realise that."

England made mistakes in defence last week, allowing Scotland to break their line 14 times, but their ability to scramble and defend the try-line was impressive. It epitomised the message of pride, heart and discipline that Lancaster has been trying to get though to his men - and won England the game.

Lancaster said: "We talked about it again this morning with the players - 'What does pride in the shirt and professionalism look like? What does commitment look like?'

"These are the types of things that the players talked about. We want the players to take ownership of the on-field discipline and off-field discipline through the leadership group and you can begin to see that happening.

"If we had been ill-disciplined at the weekend, we probably would have conceded four or five penalties in kickable range, which ultimately would have led to Scotland winning the game.

"We want to see a repeat of that discipline against Italy this weekend. We don't want to give cheap penalties away by going offside or from early scrum engagements."

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