England 18-11 Italy, Six Nations
'Nobody is punching the air in the changing room'
March 10, 2013
Italy celebrate the sole try of the game © Getty Images
Stuart Lancaster bemoaned England's lack of accuracy as they survived a massive scare to beat Italy 18-11 at Twickenham on Sunday.
Six Nations Permutations
England were fancied to steamroller the Italians at Twickenham but instead laboured to a narrow victory while conceding the only try of the game to Luke McLean. Toby Flood was England's hero as he slotted 18 points for the home side but Lancaster admitted post-match that his team have to improve if they are to secure the Grand Slam against Wales on Saturday.
A Welsh victory by seven points, however, would see Wales lift the championship for the second year running, so long as they stayed ahead in the tournament try count between the countries.
Lancaster said: "We're delighted to get the win and relieved because of the pressure they put us under in the last 15 minutes. We know we have to improve our performance going into the Wales game.
"Nobody is punching the air in the changing room. We know we can do better. We missed one or two opportunities but going in at half-time at 12-3 we thought we would be able to pull away and finish the job off. But we conceded a soft try and suddenly it was game on again.
"Italy grew and played well in that last 20. It's a case of lessons learned and we need to ensure we improve going into next week."
England forwards coach Graeme Rowntree said: "The guys at the end were just hanging on. We have come through a massive scare. Italy delivered everything I expected and credit to our lads for keeping their composure and coming through that."
Lancaster must now wait on injuries to Geoff Parling (shoulder) and Joe Launchbury (elbow) before naming his side for next week's Grand Slam match, but he insisted there were positives as well as lessons to take from their fourth victory in a row in this season's Six Nations.
He said: "We need composure to take opportunities when they are there. The try came from a poor delivery, a poor kick, poor defence, it gave them an easy try. But there was lots of good stuff we can build on as well so we're not only depressed. I thought we created opportunities, what we didn't do was finish them. At the highest level you have to be able to take opportunities. The good thing is we felt we created them."
Lancaster also praised Italy, who beat France in their first match of the tournament last month and were brilliantly led by captain Sergio Parisse on his return from a suspension. He said: "We paid Italy a lot of respect in the preparation. Sergio Parisse coming back in was a big lift for them and his performance personally was outstanding.
"They showed the strides they have made in the last 12 months under the new coaching regime. They beat France, played Australia 19-22 in Italy, when New Zealand played them it was 23-10 with 70 minutes gone. Gone are the days when Italy turn up and people beat them easily. It proved more difficult than we hoped and credit to the way they played."
Looking forward to Wales next week, Lancaster admitted his side had to step up their game. He said: "It (the win against Italy) wouldn't be good enough, but from a coaching point of view it gives us a lot to go at. If we had won easily there might have been complacency or over-confidence seeping in. There won't be any of that."
Italy fullback Andrea Masi won the man of the match award and then tipped England to complete a clean sweep in Cardiff. "It's going to be a tough game but I think England are a bit more dangerous than Wales," he said. "We were quite happy to compete against England. This was a very good performance by Italy. We came from two poor games and today we played better rugby, more aggressive, much more physical."
Italy coach Jacques Brunel said: "The two halves were quite different. In the first half we saw England with a lot of possession. We defended well but we still had a few penalties in the first half, we had one or two good kicks and we nearly scored a try.
"The second half was quite different. Italy showed character. We showed we wanted to fight the England team. We had good possession of the ball but England had more discipline than we did and we incurred a few penalties.
"The difference was our level of freshness. We tried to train less hard in the week leading up to this match in order to have the level of freshness we saw at the end. We are on the right road and moving in the right direction."
Italy vice-captain Leonardo Ghiraldini said: "Sometimes we put ourselves under pressure but we need to keep believing in our game, keep being confident in ourselves. We need to respect our opponents but, without underestimating them, we need to be conscious of the fact we can create difficulties and can win matches."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.