Courtney Lawes insists England will harness a sense of fear entering Saturday’s showdown with Italy as they begin the process of rebuilding their Guinness Six Nations title defence.
The reigning champions crashed to a dire 11-6 defeat by Scotland in round one that means they must win all four remaining matches if they are to retain their crown.
It was from a similar position that they claimed last last year’s Six Nations and the fightback begins against an Italy team that has collapsed to 28 successive defeats in the tournament dating back to 2015.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 12, 2021
England are overwhelming favourites to avoid a first ever loss to the Azzurri, but Lawes insists a healthy degree of apprehension will help ward off another calamitous setback.
“We’ve got to have a bit of fear going into any of these games and know that we can’t take these for granted,” said Lawes, who has been restored at blindside flanker.
“Italy will come with a game plan to beat us so we have to be on our toes and we have to have a bit of fear about us.
“It’s not going to be hard to generate that coming off the loss to Scotland so at least we’ve got that to be thankful for.
“Italy are developing very well. You just don’t get any easy matches in rugby any more. It’s the beauty of the game at the minute. It’s also incredibly tough to play.
“It’s what we’ve become used to. We’ll embrace it and get a bit of fear about us because we need that.
“We need to be a bit nervous going into the game and then hopefully we can reach somewhere near our potential.
“We were quite disappointed by our performance against Scotland but that’s rugby for you. We’re excited to get back out there and hopefully put it right.
“You’ve got to learn your lessons from the game. We didn’t get ourselves in the best head-space for whatever reason and we can make amends on Saturday by flying in from the off.”
England have reinforced their pack with the return of all-action props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola from suspension and injury respectively, while Lawes brings aggression in attack and defence from the back row.
“With some of the people in the pack, we’ve got enough aggression and people who are going to be chomping at the bit,” Lawes said.
“We certainly want control. We can’t have a penalty count like we did last week. We want an edge to us for sure.
“That’s what our pack’s built on. We want to have a bit of bite. But we need control with it.
“You’re walking a fine line. It comes down to individual responsibility. We’re looking to put in some big shots, but we want them to be legal.
“We don’t want to ever step the line. You can be as physical as you need to be within the boundaries of the law.”