We take a look at the nine things we want to see from Stuart Lancaster’s England side when they face Italy at Twickenham this weekend…
1.The same starting XV to take to the field
Given the performance England gave against Wales, it would be criminal to consider replacing any of the starting XV after they performed so well. Continuity has been a key problem for England over the last few months so let’s see a bit of consistency in selection and the impact this has.
2.Tries, lots and lots of tries!
Now obviously Italy are no pushovers after putting in a solid defensive display against Ireland last weekend, however this is an opportunity for England to really open up. They have a backline that is performing well and will be riding a wave of positive momentum in front of a home crowd, so let’s see what this side is capable of.
3.The backs playing the ball through the hands
The game doesn’t have to be all about tries however, as it will be important to see England’s backline performing well again as we know what the pack are capable of. If the conditions allow, it would therefore be good to see the ball being spread wide to see what the likes of May and Watson can do out wide.
4.Danny Cipriani to be given at least 30 minutes
This game seems like the ideal opportunity to see whether Danny Cipriani is capable of cutting at the top level. If Lancaster doesn’t play him against Italy then frankly there is no point in even having him in the side so let’s see what he can do so fans will know one way or another.
5.Billy Vunipola being utilised more effectively
Saracens seem capable of getting the very best out of Billy Vunipola, however when he plays for England he seems somewhat less effective. It would therefore be nice to see England using him more subtly, in the same way Saracens do in order to see whether he can replicate his club form on the international stage.
6.Geoff Parling return on the bench if fit
Dave Attwood and George Kruis put in impressive shifts for England at the Millennium Stadium so are both worthy of retaining their respective places in the starting line-up, however it would be good to see a proper second row replacement on the bench, especially one with Parling’s experience.
7.Jonny May making a positive impact on the game
It’s not that May has been poor for England, not by any stretch, but simply that other than a few moments of magic (most notably against the All Blacks) he has been fairly quiet. It would be good to see him get more involved for England and show some positive decision making skills against Italy.
8.An accurate kicking game, but only when necessary
As mentioned above, it would be nice to see England trying to play positive attacking rugby through the hands. However an area it would be good to see England continue to improve in is when they kick from hand, it would therefore be nice to see kicks to space that aid the sides attacking efforts.
9.Nick Easter given some more game time
Easter was brought on in the final minutes of England’s victory in Cardiff, however he wasn’t given much time to make an impact, especially playing in the second row. It would therefore be good to see what he can do with at least 20 minutes playing from his preferred number 8 position.