England name unchanged team for clash against Italy

England have named an unchanged team for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham.

Jonathan Joseph
Jonathan Joseph

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has retained the same starting XV and bench after Wales were dispatched 21-16 in Cardiff in the Championship opener, a result that saw England replace Ireland as new title favourites.

Lancaster had hoped to pick Geoff Parling as specialist second row cover among the replacements at the expense of Nick Easter or Tom Croft, only for the Leicester lock to suffer a setback in his recovery from a knee injury.

"It's always good to be able to name an unchanged team and to build some consistency. We did the same last year after France heading into the Scotland game," Lancaster said.

England were able to report a clean bill of health despite a full-blooded encounter at the Millennium Stadium that saw Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph cross in each half.

Joseph, who alongside lock George Kruis will be making his first international start at Twickenham, resumes his promising centre partnership outside Luther Burrell with George Ford pulling the strings at fly-half.

Tighthead Dan Cole is given another chance to gain match fitness after a year interrupted by neck and foot problems, while on the other side of the scrum Joe Marler continues to be first choice loosehead.

England have never lost to Italy in 20 matches dating back to 1991, but have won by only seven points or less in three of their last five matches.

The rivals' last meeting at Twickenham two years ago saw Lancaster's men prevail just 18-11 through six penalties from Toby Flood.

England, who start as 1/100 match favourites, have finished Six Nations runners-up on points difference for the last two seasons and must seek to rout Italy knowing the Championship's weakest team can also prove dogged opponents.

"Italy are going to be fired up, they always are when they come to Twickenham - especially after last week's loss to Ireland," Lancaster said.

"We know what's coming at us, but we have prepared well and are looking forward to getting back home and playing in front of our fantastic supporters."

England team: M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), L Burrell (Northampton Saints), J May (Gloucester); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), D Attwood (Bath), G Kruis (Saracens), J Haskell (Wasps), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Vunipola (Saracens).

Replacements: T Youngs (Leicester Tigers), M Vunipola (Saracens), K Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), N Easter (Harlequins), T Croft (Leicester Tigers), R, Wigglesworth (Saracens), D Cipriani (Sale Sharks), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester).

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