England v Italy, Six Nations, Twickenham, February 12
Cole relishing Castro challenge
ESPNscrum Staff
February 8, 2011
England tight-head Dan Cole packs down during training, England training session, Pennyhill Park Hotel, Bagshot, England, February 8, 2011
Dan Cole is set to face club team-mate Martin Castrogiovanni © Getty Images

Dan Cole may be England's first-choice tight-head but the Leicester youngster knows who's boss at Welford Road - Italian juggernaut Martin Castrogiovanni.

The duo have been vying for the No.3 jersey at the Tigers in recent seasons and will face-off at Twickenham on Saturday when Martin Johnson's confident charges take on an Azzurri side out to build on a narrow loss to Ireland last weekend.

Cole learned his trade under Castrogiovanni but now wants to be the main man - and he will have a point to prove this weekend, in what is expected to be a ferocious front-row battle.

"There is a pecking order in my eyes and I am not at number one," Cole said. "To get there means being better than Castro. At Leicester your main job is to scrummage. Number one is the scrum, number two is the lineout lift. That is the mentality so in that regard we are similar.

"He is probably a better ball carrier than me around the field and has more involvement's around the field. I have to look at that but without compromising what has got me here [with England], which is my set-piece work. You can always do more as a player but that is something to work on."

Castrogiovanni recently turned down a lucrative move to France in order to re-sign with Leicester and Cole relishes the challenge of facing up to the Italian in training.

"You don't want it handed to you on a plate. You enjoy the graft and you are improving," Cole said. "You can't just be complacent. If you are number one or not being pushed you might fall away.

"We are pushing each other which is raising the level for the club and at international level. No-one wants to give an inch [in training] so a lot of scrums go down. That is where you learn. It works alright here with England. I have been picked for the last 12 games. You try your hardest every week. You bust your balls and give 100% whenever you are playing for England."

Cole has already sat down with England's scrum coach Graham Rowntree and the rest of the front-row and briefed them on what they can expect from Castrogiovanni.

"They know each other inside out," Rowntree said. "They are both proactive guys who want to push. Dan is a real student of the game. I have always been impressed, even from an early age, how much he knows about the game. He has given us a few tips on Castro.

"Against Ireland they were intent on pushing the Irish for a penalty or trying to break their will as a pack. They are happy to get the ball in and have a long, slow scrummage and wait for you to crack and push you off the ball."

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