Friday, February 8, 2008

Sports News - Ashton relying on England players' dented pride to revive Six Nations campaign against Italy

England National Rugby Team during a six nation tournament's match



LONDON: England attempts to rebuild its shattered Six Nations campaign at Italy on Sunday, relying on the players who buckled in last week's opener.
While tournament favorite France hosts Ireland and Scotland is at Wales, much attention will be on whether England can rebound from its shock loss to Wales last week.
Having been forced into four changes because of injury, coach Brian Ashton expects the likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Iain Balshaw to recover from the 26-19 defeat with an improved display against the powerful Italian pack.
Ashton made just one switch through choice, dropping No. 8 Luke Narraway to the bench in place of the fit-again Nick Easter, and wants the players' dented pride to spur them to victory.




"There's one or two angry men in our squad, quite rightly," Ashton said.
England was leading Wales 19-6 just after halftime in its first match since losing the World Cup final in October, but seemingly panicked under pressure against a side it had dominated.
Even the usually reliable Wilkinson, who needs four more points to become just the second player after Wales' Neil Jenkins to score 1,000 for their country, missed kicks and threw a pass to no one as Wales won at Twickenham for the first time in 20 years.
Wilkinson's place was already under pressure from the emergence of Danny Cipriani and Sunday's match at Stadio Flaminio in Rome could be his last for a while if he cannot help engineer a recovery.
But the 28-year-old flyhalf, the Six Nations' highest ever points scorer, doesn't need anyone to tell him that.
"I don't want to be here if I'm not the right person for the job or if I can't help the team," Wilkinson said. "I'm not anxious about selection because I'm doing the best I can and if there's someone better, then it's not fair that that person isn't here.




"The thing that makes me anxious nowadays is watching videos and thinking I'll see something on the field that I should have done better."
Loosehead prop Andrew Sheridan was ruled out because of an abscess near his Achilles tendon, while tighthead prop and captain Phil Vickery injured his right calf at training Thursday and is in doubt.
Bristol's Jason Hobson has been called up to England's squad as cover for Vickery.
Sheridan joined center Mike Tindall, winger David Strettle and flanker Lewis Moody out injured, with Tim Payne, Jamie Noon, Tongan-born Lesley Vainikolo and Michael Lipman replacing them.
Vainikolo, a former New Zealand rugby league international, made his debut as a replacement against Wales and set up England's only try when he grabbed Wilkinson's cross-field kick from the air and slipped an inside pass to Toby Flood, who touched down.




His power on the left could be crucial against a burly Italy team that troubled Ireland but has never beaten England in the teams' previous seven tournament meetings.
France beat Scotland 27-6 last week and would have made six changes for the Ireland game but Vincent Clerc was retained on the left wing when Julien Malzieu withdrew injured.
Hooker Dimitri Szarzewski, prop Nicolas Mas, lock Arnaud Mela and No. 8 Julien Bonnaire are drafted into the pack, while Aurelien Rougerie comes in on the right wing and David Skrela at flyhalf.
Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan made six changes to his team, but three were positional as he opted to tweak rather than overhaul his lineup for the trip to Paris.



Ronan O'Gara and Eoin Reddan are retained as the halves after engineering Ireland's most promising moments in the disappointing 16-11 win over Italy. But O'Sullivan had to reshuffle the backs because of an injury to inside center Gordon D'Arcy.
Rob Kearney comes in for D'Arcy, as he did Saturday, and will play on the left wing. Geordan Murphy switches to the right wing in place of Andrew Trimble, who joins captain Brian O'Driscoll in midfield.
"Kearney's inclusion is a reward for his display against Italy," O'Sullivan said. "He came off the bench and did really well."
Bernard Jackman comes in for Rory Best at hooker, while Denis Leamy switches to blindside flanker to accommodate Jamie Heaslip at No. 8 after the Leinster backrower was drafted in to replace the dropped Simon Easterby.



Source news: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/02/07/sports/EU-SPT-RUGU-Six-Nations-Preview.php

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