Eddie Jones has challenged his England team to show no mercy when they collide with Italy in Rome on Sunday.
The Azzurri have never beaten England in the Six Nations Championship and Jones, who has taken the unusual step of naming six forwards on the bench, wants to ensure life is even tougher for the hosts.
For the past four successive seasons England have finished second in the table, with an inferior points difference frequently counting against them. A convincing win at the Stadio Olimpico would clearly help in that regard and Jones is looking for his replacements, including the uncapped Maro Itoje, to make a big second-half impact against potentially tiring opponents.
“We want to be absolutely brutal up front so there is no Italian player left standing at the end of the game,” stressed Jones, making clear England would not be pussy-footing around.
“That means dominant set piece, strangulating defence and the ability to be ruthless in attack. We want to make the opposition fear us and we want to be disciplined ... that’s what we’re aiming for. It doesn’t matter if it’s realistic, that’s our aim and that’s how I want the players to think.”
Jones is not remotely interested in dwelling on England’s past visits under previous coaches to Rome, where teams have sometimes been drawn into a prolonged arm-wrestle by the Italian pack. “You can’t let history dictate. If you keep on looking at history, then you are bound to repeat it,” he said.
“We’ve no history as a team so we don’t have to worry about what has happened in the past. If you look at the rankings we’re a better side than Italy. We have to prove that on Sunday.”
There are three changes to the starting XV that defeated Scotland at Murrayfield last Saturday, two of them in the pack where Mako Vunipola replaces Joe Marler at loosehead prop and Courtney Lawes starts ahead of Joe Launchbury in the second row. Ben Youngs has also been given the nod ahead of Danny Care, with the 21-year-old Itoje named on the bench for the first time.
England have high hopes for the athletic Saracen, but Jones chose an unusual motoring analogy to describe him. “He’s like a Vauxhall Viva now, we want to make him into a BMW,” said the Australian, who denied he had been watching too many Top Gear repeats.
“We used to have one. I always remember my father driving a pink Vauxhall Viva; a very good car.
“It’s a good place to start, mate. They’re one of the great cars of the English automobile industry, aren’t they? Maro’s got a good chassis on him, he’s got four wheels, he can move but he’s got a lot of work to do.”
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