England lock George Kruis joined head coach Eddie Jones in taking aim at Italy on the eve of today’s Guinness Six Nations encounter at Twickenham.
Jones stated that the Azzurri can be a gifted team if their head coach Conor O’Shea takes a positive approach, a reference to the controversial no-ruck tactics employed by the Irishman at the same venue two years ago.
It is a view echoed by Kruis, who forms a second-row partnership alongside Joe Launchbury after Maro Itoje was definitively ruled out by forwards coach Steve Borthwick because of a knee injury.
“If Conor lets them play then they can play and produce some magic out the back. We’re prepared for that and we’re not underestimating them,” Kruis said.
“They’ve put on some pretty good performances in this Six Nations and we know they could chuck anything at us – like they have done previously.
“They’re unpredictable and can play in different styles. With Italy you’ve got to expect anything and that’s exactly what we’re thinking about.
“The game starts with the forwards so we know we’ve got a big job to do in the pack.”
On Thursday Jones raised the possibility of Itoje being restored to England’s matchday 23 if he made rapid progress in his recovery from ligament damage, but the hope now is that he becomes available to play against Scotland.
“Maro is not fit for this weekend, but he’s recovering really well. He progresses every day. Everyone else is fully fit,” Borthwick said.
“We’re really excited about this game.
“Italy have played very, very well over the last couple of matches.
“Look at how they played for part of the game against Scotland and against Ireland – it shows they’re a good team.”
Meanwhile Ireland coach O’Shea is backing Kyle Sinckler to become a legend of the English game.
Sinckler has been a force of nature so far in the Six Nations despite ongoing concerns over a short fuse that has been evident in flashes, most notably in the defeat to Wales in Cardiff.
O’Shea oversaw the 25-year-old prop’s early development as Harlequins director of rugby and from the start of Jones’s reign he was urging the Australian to select a unique talent.
“Eddie came to Quins in the first week he was in the job and asked, ‘is there anyone we are missing?’ I said, ‘Sink’,” O’Shea revealed ahead of today’s match at Twickenham.
“He is explosive, he has got the lot. For all the players we had at Quins – Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown etc – I said, ‘Eddie, the man is Sink’.
“Sink wasn’t starting every week and he was frustrated with me. He was someone I shared a lot of one-on-ones with at Quins.
“The kid is special. At the age of 16 we put him on the bench to go to Toulouse in the Champions Cup.
“England are bloody lucky to have him and he’s going to become a pretty big legend in this game.”
Sinckler was described as an “emotional timebomb” by Wales coach Warren Gatland, but O’Shea insists the idea he could lose his cool at any moment is inaccurate.
“Has he got an edge? Yes. But he’s more under control than people think. When you are as explosive as he is, he won’t take a backward step, we know that,” O’Shea said.
“He has a swagger, but he backs it up with the way he plays.
“I have gone through a lot of his formative years and he’s still a young player. He is good to be around.”
Jonny May content in land of the giants: Page 7