Italy focusing on defence for England clash

Having paid dearly for missed tackles in Paris last weekend, Italy have been working hard on the defensive part of their game ahead of their Six Nations clash with England on Saturday.

Missed tackles led to three of France’s four tries in a 30-12 defeat for the Azzurri at the Stade de France.

And South African-born half-back Tobias Botes says the team have been working on that part of their game ahead of England’s visit.

“We had a really good defensive session (on Monday), the tries (France) scored were from some turnovers,” said the 28-year-old.

“We’ve got to get that out of our system because we were in attacking situations which made it more difficult (to take).

“Against France you can’t afford to slip any tackles or make defensive errors because they’ll score against you.

“We’ve worked hard on our defence and I think we’ll be much better this weekend against England.”

The Treviso scrum-half, who made his debut for Italy at fly-half as a substitute, says Italy must not give England space to play an expansive game at the Stadio Olimpico.

“They’ve got really good players in their team but we’ve worked on our defensive skills and we’re aware of what they bring so we’ve got a plan to minimise their space and keep them at bay,” added Botes.

“If you look at the game against Scotland they played more as a unit whereas maybe last year they were more individualistic.

“If you look at the (Scotland) game it was more team play rather than any individuals standing out.”

Botes is first choice number nine at Treviso with Italy scrum-halves Edoardo Gori and Fabio Semenzato behind him in the reckoning.

And yet even though he was available for selection, he wasn’t called up in coach Jacques Brunel’s original squad.

Instead he was brought in only when first choice fly-half Luciano Orquera was injured and ruled out of the France game.

Botes admitted he wasn’t expecting to be given a chance.

“It’s a surprise for me, it’s always been an objective of mine (to play for Italy) since I came to Treviso four years ago,” he said.

“But it was a great surprise for me to play my first match at fly-half.

“It’s a very proud moment for me to play for Italy, there are 15 Treviso guys here so it’s not only the South African guys (Cornelius Van Zyl and Quentin Geldenhuys) who helped me.

“Everyone immediately made me feel welcome and feel part of the team which made it really easy to settle in.

“Jacques has also been unbelievable, he’s a really relaxed guy, he’s helping me a lot and he’s never been hard on anyone.”

As for his position, Botes said he’ll take any cap wherever he can get one, although he doesn’t know where his future lies in the national set-up.

“You take any national team spot you can get. We’ve never had any discussion like that, (Brunel) told me he mainly brought me in because he needs two kickers in his team.

“I kicked last year for Treviso but got injured over Christmas and Kris (Burton, who started for Italy in Paris) took over and he’s been kicking really well so the main thing is to have two good goal kickers in the team.”

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