Coach Ashton admits England have work to do


Mon, Feb 12, 2007 - Page 19

England coach Brian Ashton admitted his side had a "lot of work to do" after their unconvincing 20-7 Six Nations win over Italy at Twickenham.

Hopes were high that Ashton had inspired something of a revival in England's play when his first match in charge saw the world champions run in four tries as they beat Scotland 42-20 in their Six Nations opener.

But Saturday's match against the Azzurri was a reminder that England, before Ashton took charge, had lost eight of their nine previous Tests.

And they will surely have to raise their game come the next round when, in their first away match of this year's tournament, they face Ireland in Dublin on Feb. 24.

England, against a combative Italy pack, lacked imagination and ended up playing their opponents' game during a protracted forward battle.

With both sides scoring a try, five penalties from England outside-half Jonny Wilkinson proved decisive as the Newcastle star broke the Six Nations points record of 406 he'd previously shared with Wales's Neil Jenkins.

But Wilkinson's tactical kicking was poor and his partnership with inside center Andy Farrell caused Italy few problems.

"It's pretty evident we've go a lot of work to do, but we knew we would have," Ashton said. "This is a team that has played twice together and it needs to play more to get some familiarity and, after today, need to develop and ability to think about how we progress the game."

England defend their World Cup title in France later this year and Wilkinson, trying to remain upbeat, said: "There are things to learn but you'd rather find these things out now than two games before the World Cup."

Meanwhile, captain Phil Vickery, the Wasps prop, said England would be better for this gruelling encounter.

Behind the scrum, England saw fullback Iain Balshaw go off before halftime with a recurrence of the groin injury that saw him miss the Scotland match while, in the second half, center Mike Tindall left the field with a dead leg.

Italy coach Pierre Berbizier saw his decision to make six changes, including the recall of veteran scrumhalf Alessandro Troncon, following a 39-3 defeat at home to France, rewarded by a much-improved display.

And the outcome might have been different had not captain Marco Bortolami been somewhat harshly yellow-carded for coming in at the side of a maul.

"That decision changed the game," Berbizier said. "I know don't if it [the try] was a forward pass but everything changed with the yellow card."

Soon afterwards England crossed the Italy line when left wing Jason Robinson went in for his third try in two matches although it looked as if Josh Lewsey's preceding flick-on pass had gone forward.

Welsh referee Nigel Owens did Italy few favors and lock Bortolami, when asked about his team's prospects against Scotland, replied: "If we have the same attitude and can score two or three tries more [than against England] and possibly, with a good referee, we have a chance to win that match."

Scots defeat welsh

Head coach Frank Hadden believes the best is yet to come from a Scotland side that bounced back from a mauling by England in their Six Nations opener to out-think and out-fight Wales on their way to a 21-9 victory at Murrayfield.

Damp and bitterly cold conditions helped ensure the match was not pretty to watch.

But Hadden and his Wales counterpart Gareth Jenkins agreed that a punchy performance from the Scots' pack had provided the platform for a well-deserved win delivered by the trusty right boot of captain Chris Paterson, who landed seven penalties.

Hadden was quick to underline the psychological importance of Scotland's first win over Wales since 2003.

"There was a lot of pressure on the boys and I'm really proud of the way they controlled the game," Hadden said.