England sticks with unchanged team for Italy match
Updated: February 09, 2012, 07:15
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LONDON(AP) England coach Stuart Lancaster opted to stick with the team that beat Scotland last weekend for Saturday's Six Nations match against Italy.
An overhauled lineup beat Scotland 13-6 for England's first win at Murrayfield since 2004, and Lancaster said Thursday that he expects his players to be stronger at Rome's Stadio Olimpico following another week training together.
England held some of its sessions in an indoor soccer center because of freezing conditions across the country, but Lancaster said that wouldn't affect the players' performance.
"We have had a good week in spite of the weather and reflected on the game, reviewed and learnt from it and will look to improve the quality of our performance this week,'' Lancaster said. "We have decided to leave the starting team the same to allow them more time to gel together.''
Lancaster also named the same seven replacements. Hooker Rob Webber was the only reserve not to make it onto the field last week and is therefore the only uncapped member of the 22-man match-day squad.
With the likes of Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt, Phil Dowson and Mauritz Botha keeping their spots, England's starting 15 boasts just 251 caps.
"We are expecting our bench to come on and make an impact as they did last week,'' Lancaster said. "Italy will be a very difficult challenge with nearly 700 caps in their starting lineup.''
Lancaster is only in charge until the end of the Six Nations but has submitted his application to the Rugby Football Union to become coach on a permanent basis.
Martin Johnson quit in November, unwilling to recommit to the team in the wake of a shambolic Rugby World Cup campaign overshadowed by indiscretions on and off the pitch.
Only eight members of Johnson's unsuccessful World Cup squad - Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Ben Youngs, Tom Croft, Tom Palmer, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley and Alex Corbisiero - have made it into Lancaster's starting lineup for the Six Nations.
England: Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell, David Strettle, Charlie Hodgson, Ben Youngs; Phil Dowson, Chris Robshaw, Tom Croft, Tom Palmer, Mauritz Botha, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Alex Corbisiero. Reserves: Rob Webber, Matt Stevens, Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan, Lee Dickson, Jordan Turner-Hall, Mike Brown.