Vickery shows Azzurri some respect

England captain Phil Vickery insists complacency will not be an issue – despite his team’s status as red-hot favourites to enjoy another Six Nations points spree against Italy on Saturday.

England, targeting an eighth successive Six Nations victory at the Azzurri’s expense, boast almost a half-century points average since Italy joined European rugby’s most exclusive club in 2000.

It is an even sorrier tale for the Italians at Twickenham, where a 53-12 England win this weekend would be par for the course – based on scorelines in 2001, 2003 and 2005.

But Vickery, whose team displayed several encouraging signs in crushing Calcutta Cup opponents Scotland last Saturday, is quick to deflect any talk of a perceived England walkover.

“Italy have got a really physical team – and with Alessandro Troncon coming back in at scrum-half, they have a huge amount of experience to add to what we already know about them,” the England skipper said.

“We got our driving game going against Scotland – and from a performance point of view, we made some huge steps forward. but we need to be better against an Italian pack that has real clout, size and knowledge.

“We have to go up a gear, because it is a new challenge for us.

“We cannot afford to slip back into just thinking because we are England, then we will win.”

While a Jonny Wilkinson-inspired England saw off the Scots, Italy’s pre-tournament optimism – suggesting improved performances and results – evaporated during a painful French lesson in Rome, where five visiting tries underpinned a 39-3 verdict.

Italy coach Pierre Berbizier has responded by making six changes for the trip to London, including a different front row and 91 times-capped Troncon making a Test comeback at the age of 33.

“Italy will be very disappointed with their performance against France,” Vickery added.

“They know they hugely under-performed by their own standards, and they will have nothing to lose coming to Twickenham.

“They are a good side, and we know a lot of their players from the Guinness Premiership.

“If you try and play catch-up rugby with these guys you will be in trouble. They have firepower to match anybody.

“We just have to win and not get carried away by the Scotland performance.

“Reputations are not made overnight – and if they are, they usually come crumbling down.

“Against Scotland, there was a fear of losing – which helped our preparation. Where do we find our fear this week? It comes from not performing as well as we can.

“Some people may expect us to win well against Italy, but this is a totally different prospect.

“They have a huge pack of forwards and an experienced number nine. It will be a tough day at the office – and if anyone thinks we will be running up lots of points, they will be proved wrong.”

England headed for London from their Bath University training base today, after a light indoor session that saw number eight Martin Corry taking part.

The Leicester number eight has been troubled by an arm infection which required a course of antibiotics – Sale Sharks back-row forward Chris Jones trained instead of him on Wednesday – but he will also be fully involved in tomorrow’s Twickenham team run.

365 Digital

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