Six Nations 2015: England to name unchanged team for Italy
Stuart Lancaster set to keep faith with players who delivered a 21-16 win over Wales in Cardiff last week
England are expected to name an unchanged team for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham.
After doubts over a lengthy injury list were blown away in a stunning 21-16 win over Wales in Cardiff last Friday, head coach Stuart Lancaster is set to keep faith with his starting XV despite centre duo Brad Barritt and Kyle Eastmond available for selection.
Leicester Tigers lock Geoff Parling could return to the bench as specialist second row cover if he overcomes his knee problem, but will not be able to displace Bath’s Dave Attwood and Saracens’ George Kruis, who impressed on his first England start.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster is ready to reward the starting XV for their heroics in dispatching Wales 21-16 in Cardiff on Friday night by retaining them en masse against the Azzurri.
The only potential change will come among the replacements, where Geoff Parling could provide specialist lock cover at the expense of Nick Easter or Tom Croft if he proves his fitness by Tuesday.
“The reality is that a lot of the team did play very well against Wales and I wouldn’t envisage too many – if any – changes,” said Lancaster.
“Reverting to a specialist second row on the bench is something we are going to have to consider in the next 24 hours.
“We haven’t got a definitive answer whether Geoff is going to come through this next training session or Tuesday morning’s unit session, but that is one of the options.”
Lancaster has already been boosted by a quartet of injured players linking up with the main England squad to continue their rehabilitation at their Pennyhill Park base.
Northampton Saints duo Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes are close to returning to full training ahead of the possibility of being available for the final rounds the championship in March.
“In an ideal world you would want them to play before then, particularly Courtney who has been out for quite a while now. Tom less so,” Lancaster added.
“Tom has played quite a lot of rugby, but Courtney has been out for quite a while. I don’t think them playing will transpire.
“The way they’re progressing is that they’ll not play this weekend or next week.
“The first opportunity for them to play – international or club rugby – will be the weekend of the Ireland game. We’ll have to take a view on where we are at that point.
“It’s fair to say that our second rows Dave Attwood and George Kruis did well, but Geoff obviously comes back into the equation.”
The England head coach has also refused to rule out the possibility of Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi being recalled as he battles back from a groin problem.
With Bath’s Jonathan Joseph impressing against Wales and Barritt now also available, Lancaster doesn’t feel the need to rush the Tigers star back too early.
“Manu is making good progress now but he is still some way away from playing club rugby,” Lancaster said.
“Having been out for so long, he clearly has to come back and play for Leicester first.
“We haven’t ruled him out by any stretch of the imagination, but will have to take it literally one day at a time. He’s still not back to full running yet.”
Lancaster will name his team to face the Azzurri on Thursday morning.