Robinson wary of ‘physical’ Italy

Coach Andy Robinson has geared England up for an intense physical battle against Italy on Saturday, admitting: "They will stand toe-to-toe with us." [more]

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Coach Andy Robinson has geared England up for an intense physical battle against Italy on Saturday, admitting: "They will stand toe-to-toe with us."

The Italians have failed to hold England on three previous occasions in Rome, conceding 154 points.

But they are hurting from last weekend’s RBS 6 Nations loss to Ireland in Dublin and British & Irish Lions coach Robinson expects Italy to come out firing at the Stadio Flaminio.

"We have always known that Italy have the physicality as a team, and apart from France, I think they are the most physical team we play against in the northern hemisphere," said Robinson.

"They will stand toe-to-toe with you, so up front will be a major physical battle for us.

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"I think they have just added a bit of guile with the pace they are playing at, and I think their back-play has certainly improved and is pretty dangerous.

"What I saw last weekend was a side that were unfortunate to lose a game of rugby.

"If you think back last year to us in Dublin, then I think we were in a similar boat, feeling the same way. We were able to respond after that, and I think Italy will be looking to respond on Saturday."

Robinson has made one enforced change from the team that demolished reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Wales at Twickenham last Saturday.

Full-back Josh Lewsey has not recovered from a shoulder injury sustained early in the game, and he is replaced by his Wasps colleague Tom Voyce, who makes a first RBS 6 Nations start.

Robinson though, is optimistic that Lewsey will be fit in time for England’s appointment with Scotland at Murrayfield on February 25.

With Voyce promoted to the starting line-up, there is a place on the bench for Gloucester-back James Simpson-Daniel, while Northampton wing Ben Cohen becomes the 21st England player to win 50 caps.

Simpson-Daniel apart, Robinson retains the bench which made such an impact during the Wales encounter, with Voyce and his fellow substitutes Lawrence Dallaglio and Matt Dawson scoring England’s final three tries.

Dallaglio and Dawson can expect to be heavily involved on Saturday, and Robinson admits he was delighted with the impact his replacements made as Wales were put to the sword.

"I am not one for making a lot of substitutions, so it was something I had to look at myself," said Robinson.

"I believe we have a bench you want to put on and make those changes. I thought there was a huge impact from them and they really lifted the performance, but they lifted it based around an outstanding start to the game.

"On the back of that start, the guys were able to go on from the bench and really perform."

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