Parisse out to exploit Lancaster’s vulnerable favourites

Italy's captain and talisman has been among the world's most talented players for the best part of a decade.
Italy's captain and talisman has been among the world's most talented players for the best part of a decade.
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Sergio Parisse senses England are vulnerable to the afterglow of their Cardiff heroics as Italy plot to ambush their Six Nations title quest at Twickenham today.

The Championship favourites issued a statement of intent by toppling Wales 21-16 and are expected to sweep the Azzurri aside en route to their pivotal showdown with Ireland in Dublin on March 1.

Parisse accepts England were impressive at the Millennium Stadium but hopes to exploit a chink in their armour as Italy seek to atone for their comprehensive defeat by reigning champions Ireland in Rome on the opening Saturday of the tournament.

“England have won a huge battle in a very unfriendly stadium and they may lack a bit of focus when they face us,” said the Italy captain.

“I’m not saying they will underestimate us, but clearly after such a crucial win there is the risk that their attention to detail will be a bit more 
relaxed.

“We watched them play Wales and we’ve seen what everybody else has – they are a strong, in-form team.

“They are filled with young, exciting talent and they won a high-intensity encounter 
so clearly this will be tough for us.

“But we are looking at the challenge as a chance to prove to ourselves we are still a competitive team.

“Mentally we may arrive there more prepared than we have been in the past.”

With England raising the curtain on World Cup year at Twickenham, Italy have been scripted for a damage limitation exercise against 1/150 match favourites.

The Azzurri arguably have a bigger battle to fight in the shape of their possible wooden spoon decider against Scotland on February 28, but Parisse 
knows a strong showing at Twickenham will lift spirits for Edinburgh.

“We just have to stay focused on our game and play the next opponents,” the No 8 said.

“A convincing game against England will help us get back on the right track and look at the Murrayfield challenge with confidence.

“We must be focused on turning the tide and we must do so in a very difficult place to come and play.

“We need to get ball in hand more and try to concentrate for the whole 80 minutes.”