Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

McLean looks to reward loyal fans

Luke McLean has demanded Italy reward a sold-out Stadio Olimpico by ending their RBS 6 Nations campaign with a maiden victory over England.

The Azzurri have never beaten England in 19 previous attempts and have lost all four of this year's matches in a disappointing Championship.

But with inspirational captain Sergio Parisse restored to the starting XV, after missing the rout by Ireland with a thigh injury, and 80,000 supporters cheering them on, McLean hopes the scene is set for a famous Roman triumph.

"The affection of the fans, unchanged in spite of the defeats, is a nice feeling," the full-back said.

"On Saturday we will aim to do better on the field as a reward for all this support. We will try to give them a final satisfaction.

"The fans are always with us when we get positive results and even when we do not quite match the heights we are aiming for."

Parisse's return to the starting XV is a massive lift for Italy with England head coach Stuart Lancaster outlining the number eight's influence as "an icon and talisman for Italy, it's like playing three extra men when he's on".

But the Azzurri have been hit by the loss of veteran tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni to the treatment room, so Lorenzo Cittadini starts in his place.

Head coach Jacques Brunel has braced his team for a physical collision against England, who remain in the hunt for the title.

"We know when we play the English because we feel it the next day physically," Brunel said.

"We really look at the time of the ball in play to judge the intensity of the game and England have played three games which have been much more intense than ours.

"We don't want to lose faith in how we want to play the game. We need to know why we lost to Ireland, we've done the analysis but we are going to stick with our game plan.

"Hopefully we'll be able to carry it out on the pitch."


From Belfast Telegraph