WEEKEND POLL - England v Italy: England urged to illustrate their new X-factor

England's Anthony Watson
England's Anthony Watson
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Andy Farrell has demanded England rise to the second of their five cup finals when they face Italy at Twickenham this afternoon.

Farrell believes the 21-16 victory over Wales last weekend has generated a “feelgood factor” and the Red Rose have since been installed as new favourites to win a first RBS Six Nations title under Stuart Lancaster.

Success against Italy will set-up a mouth-watering showdown against Ireland in Dublin on March 1 and Farrell has urged England to continue building momentum in their pursuit of silverware.

“In the Six Nations you have to make sure that mentally and emotionally you’re in the right place to put your plan into action on the field,” said backs coach Farrell.

“That’s important against Italy as well because let’s not forget that it was a cup final for everyone last weekend.

“To win a Championship you have five of those cup finals.

“Earlier in the week we showed the players what they did well against Wales and what they didn’t do well.

“Mentally we brought them down a bit and then built them back up again.

“Hopefully against Italy we’ll be at that cup final stage again.

“We need to back up the Wales performance.

“There’s a feel-good factor around the rugby country at this moment in time and we have to back up that performance by making everyone feel the same way again.”

England have finished Six Nations runners-up on points difference for the last two seasons and must seek to rout Italy to tip the balance in their favour should several teams be jostling for the title on the final day.

All 20 previous meetings between the rivals have ended in an English win, but recent history paints a picture of a potentially tight and tense fixture with Lancaster’s men prevailing just 18-11 through six penalties from Toby Flood two years ago.

Farrell insists his firm favourites must cast aside any notion of putting Italy to the sword.

“International rugby is not like that, you just have to look at the recent games between us to see that,” said Farrell.

“Two of the last three games have been close.

“The game always takes its own way. What we have to do is be good enough to feel the momentum of the game and how to influence it.

“The performance will come on the back of that really.

“To have a fixed plan of how it will unfold in your head before the game isn’t reality.

“If Italy turn up and play exceptionally well, it will be a really tough game, there’s no doubt about that.

“We just need to try and impose our game on them early to try and get what we want from it.

“We’d have loved to have beaten Wales by 30 points. We’d love to beat Ireland by a lot of points as well.

“Each game is different and it’s all swings and roundabouts.”

Lancaster believes the presence of gamebreakers such as Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and Jonny May has given England more ‘X-factor’ than at any time during his reign.

Farrell, however, insists they are only able to continue shining if the pack provides the platform by doing the hard yards.

“X-factor is something everyone wants but X-factor is only allowed to come to the fore when you have got forwards who carry the ball, accept contact and get front-foot ball,” said Farrell.

“The flair of players like Ben Youngs and George Ford only comes to the fore on the back of that.

“X-factor is the icing on the cake but there is a lot that has to happen for that to come out.

“Our physicality and our front foot-ball especially in the second half against Wales allowed us to do that.”

When asked about the number of X-factor players at his disposal, Lancaster said: “I do think we have more now – guys like Joseph, Watson, Ben Youngs and George Ford.

“And further down the line there will be others who come into the equation like Manu Tuilagi, who has been developing a tactical perspective while he has been injured.”

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

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

Italy: L McLean (Sale Sharks); L Sarto (Zebre), L Morisi (Treviso), A Masi (Wasps), G Venditti (Zebre); K Haimona (Zebre), E Gori (Treviso); A De Marchi (Sale Sharks), L Ghiraldini (Leicester), M Castrogiovanni (Toulon), G Biagi (Zebre), M Bortolami (Zebre), F Minto (Treviso), M Bergamasco (Zebre), S Parisse (Stade Francais, capt).

Replacements: A Manici (Zebre), M Aguero (Zebre), D Chistolini (Zebre), J Furno (Newcastle), S Vunisa (Zebre), G Palazzani (Zebre), T Allan (Perpignan), G Bisegni (Zebre).

Referee: J Lacey (Ireland).