Six Nations 2013: England require a brutal defence, says Andy Farrell

England believe defence will shape their Six Nations grand slam bid as the championship leaders prepare for their final two games against Italy and Wales.

Chris Robshaw's side have conceded three tries so far and the assistant coach Andy Farrell says his squad want to be recognised as the meanest defensive unit in the world.

"We want to have a reputation that we are a force to be reckoned with as far as defence is concerned," Farrell said. "If you ask most teams we have played against, they would back that up. We are a side that likes to go and get the ball back as soon as possible and make sure the opposition realise it will be a physical, hard game when they have the ball. It is definitely part of our mantra.

"I wouldn't want us to be a passive, defensive side that backs off and doesn't put pressure on the opposition. It is massively important. Teams can already see the difference in what we are trying to do. That is why we are hard to play against."

Even if someone misses a tackle, argues Farrell, an onrushing presence can still have a big effect. "If somebody like Courtney Lawes puts fear into somebody's mind, the next time that guy takes the ball up he is not thinking pretty thoughts. He is thinking: "Where is Courtney Lawes?'"

Yet Farrell remains wary of Italy on Sunday. "From their point of view it is their grand final. They haven't beaten us in 18 games and they want to be the first Italian side to beat England. Imagine doing it without your captain [Sergio Parisse] as well. You'd be a hero, wouldn't you?"

He also concedes the home coaches are already plotting for their final game with Wales on 16 March. "We would be fools to tell you we are not looking at both games. How do you look at a grand slam unless you get this game right?"

The prop Dan Cole, meanwhile, says the English forwards are looking to sharpen up their set-piece work. "We haven't played a complete [game] as a forward pack, especially in the scrums. Potentially we're very good but potential means nothing if we're not doing things as well as we can. We may not be the biggest pack in the world but we want to be the best pack in the world.

"France raised their game last week and we've got to be prepared to do that. Italy have nothing to lose. They pride themselves on their set-piece and they'll come to Twickenham wanting to hurt us there. They'll see our struggles against France and try to target us. We've got to be ready for that and be better than them."

Powered by article was written by Robert Kitson, for The Guardian on Tuesday 5th March 2013 22.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Unofficial England Rugby