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England 14:30 New Zealand

Lewsey calms expectations

By Michael Wise.   Last Updated: 09/02/07 2:39pm

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RBS Six Nations, England v Italy, Twickenham, Saturday February 10, KO 1.30pm

Josh Lewsey has warned both England team-mates and Twickenham faithful alike not to expect champagne rugby when underdogs Italy visit on Saturday.

Buoyed by their Jonny Wilkinson-inspired 42-20 victory against Scotland last weekend, England now face the RBS Six Nations Championship's least-fancied side.

Since entering the competition in 2000, Italy have yet to record an away win in the 36 matches they have played, with England averaging half a century against the Azzurri.

But Lewsey, who again starts on the wing on Saturday, has moved to dampen expectations - the Wasps player citing both the experience of England's opponents and the expected weather as factors.
    
"We realise that when the Italian players began moving to the English and French leagues, they would get stronger," he said.

"They also have one of the shrewdest coaches in Pierre Berbizier. We are certainly not underestimating them, and I hope the crowd are not either.

"It is supposed to be a cold, wet day tomorrow, so I hope people are patient. We will need to be pragmatic at first, and if that means winning ugly then so be it, as long as we win."

With last Saturday's win bringing a much-needed upturn in English sporting fortunes, expectations are understandably high of a repeat performance.

But the mood appears not to have fully spread to head coach Brian Ashton, who has outlined areas in which he believes England underperformed last time out. 

"We have talked about the mentality of winning, and we have enough experience in this team now to know what it takes to win Test matches," he said.

"Discipline is hugely important, and conceding 14 penalties last week was unacceptable.

"You are never 100% happy as a coach. For example, we didn't get enough go-forward possession in the first 20 minutes last Saturday - there was too much of us going from side to side.

"I want us to start this game the way we started the second half against Scotland. I am sure Italy will get stuck into (half-backs) Jonny and Harry (Ellis), but they are both very experienced internationals and they will expect no less."

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