10 February 2023

Italy expect ‘more direct and unified’ test from England – boss Kieran Crowley

10 February 2023

Italy head coach Kieran Crowley expects England to present a “more direct and unified” test under Steve Borthwick at Twickenham on Sunday.

Borthwick’s first game as England boss ended in Guinness Six Nations defeat last weekend as Scotland beat them 29-23 to lift the Calcutta Cup.

But Crowley believes Borthwick has now had the necessary time since succeeding Eddie Jones to get his methods and principles across to the players.

“I think they will be a lot more direct and unified,” said former New Zealand back Crowley after making two changes to the side that narrowly lost their championship opener to France in Rome.

“When a new coach comes in it takes a little bit of time. But they’ve had three weeks now, so I expect that defence will be a lot more solid.

“They’ll come at us direct and try to exert themselves on us from a physical presence point of view.

“So we have to beat that and attempt to be accurate in what we do and put the pressure back on them.”

Borthwick has responded to the Scotland defeat by splitting up the playmaking combination of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell and revamping his midfield.

Farrell moves from inside-centre to outside-half with Smith demoted to the bench, while Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade fill the respective 12 and 13 jerseys.

Crowley said: “It doesn’t matter to us that Farrell is playing 10 and Smith is on the bench.

“Farrell will play a more percentage game, I would think and they’ll use Smith later in the game to open it up.

“But we just concentrate on ourselves and we want to give a good account of ourselves.”

Italy came close to shocking France last weekend as only a late score by the defending champions snatched a 29-24 win and denied the Azzurri a first Six Nations home success since 2013.

Crowley said: “We gained confidence from it by pushing them close and the other thing we got from it was we weren’t accurate enough.

“We had the realisation that if we were accurate, we could have had that game.

“Quite often in the past the Italians have accepted the fact that they get beat by these top teams, but the good thing on Sunday was that wasn’t there.

“There was a different feeling about it and that’s a real growth thing for me.”

Wing Edoardo Padovani and prop Marco Riccioni will start at Twickenham in the two changes from the France game.

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