England v Italy, March 10
Farrell backs defence to halt Italy
ESPN Staff
March 6, 2013
England assistant coach Andy Farrell, England training session, Winston Churchill School, Woking, England, February 9, 2012
Andy Farrell has faith in England's defence ahead of Sunday's match against Italy © Getty Images

England coach Andy Farrell insists that he has no concerns over the team's defence despite seeing them miss 21 tackles against France.

England come up against Italy on Sunday and with three wins from three in the championship, they are chasing their first Grand Slam since 2003. And although England missed a large number of tackles against France, Farrell claims that some of them should be seen as a natural consequence of the high-pressure defensive system England use to rattle the opposition.

Blindside Courtney Lawes came in for some criticism post-match for his missed tackle in the build-up to Wesley Fofana's try and while Farrell admits this was a mistake on the Northampton Saints man's part, he claims his main job was to instil fear and doubt in the minds of the French.

And when Italy arrive at Twickenham on Sunday, Farrell vowed that England are ready to strike fear into the heart of the Azzurri.

"Everyone goes off the missed tackle statistics. I look at it differently," Farrell said. "I wouldn't want us to be a passive defensive side that back off and doesn't put pressure on the opposition. If you do that, there will be misses here and there.

"There is a difference between a glaring one-on-one missed tackle when you are isolated (like Lawes' on Fofana) and the team going, 'Let's go and get them'. If somebody like Courtney gets off the line and puts the fear of whatever into somebody's mind, the next time that guy is taking the ball up he is not thinking pretty thoughts.

"He is thinking, 'S***, where is Courtney Lawes?' We are a side that likes to force errors on the opposition and make sure they realise it will be a physical, hard game. It is definitely part of our mantra. That is why we are hard to play against. We want to have a reputation that we are a force to be reckoned with as far as defence is concerned."

Asked whether England are building a defence that strikes fear in their opponents, Farrell added: "If you ask most teams we have played against so far, they would back that up."

Another area of England's game that faltered against France was the scrum. Dan Cole is likely to start at tight-head on Sunday and he will come up against his Tigers team-mate Martin Castrogiovanni.

Ahead of the match-up, Cole insists that England's scrum is building towards a big performance. "We haven't played a complete game as a forward pack, especially in the scrums," Cole said. "Against the French the back five probably pushed the best they've done so far but we had issues in the front-row.

"Against Ireland the front-row were fairly settled but the back five weren't. We need to be more mentally alert. At some point, and hopefully this weekend, I think there is going to be an 80-minute set-piece with everyone doing what needs to be done.

"Potentially we're very good but potential means nothing if we're not doing things as well as we can. Italy pride themselves on their set-piece and they'll come to Twickenham wanting to hurt us there. We've got to be ready for that and better than them."

And Cole is relishing the chance to come up against Castrogiovanni. "You're going against clubmates, guys you're seeing day in day out and that can add to the excitement of the affair in terms of banter," Cole said. "You've got deal with them every day so you want to be the one who wins. There might be (a bit of sledging), at the back of a lineout if we can catch our breath for long enough!"

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