Some people are never satisfied, particularly people as driven as Tom Wood. “Twickenham was not a case of ‘Cardiff avenged’ and it didn’t put the memory to bed,” the Northampton flanker said yesterday, when asked if Sunday’s fine victory over Wales meant that the 2013 Grand Slam calamity at the Millennium Stadium had finally been consigned to history.
“That was a hurtful day – the kind of occasion that stays with you. Everything was on the line in that game and we got it wrong. This win goes some way towards dealing with it, but it won’t put it out of our minds.”
Even though England have never lost to Italy, their final opponents in this season’s Six Nations, recent struggles against the Azzurri have left an itch badly in need of scratching. Four years ago in Rome, they won by only five points; two years ago, the margin was one point narrower. Even at Twickenham last time out, Wood and company were pushed every step of the way, eventually prevailing 18-11 against visitors who scored the only try of the game. At times, England have found themselves starved of ball and strangled territorially.
“We’re the only scalp they haven’t taken in this tournament and that will give them added incentive this weekend,” Wood said. “The challenge for us after two huge emotional highs against Ireland and Wales, playing at Twickenham in front of 80,000-plus crowds, is to recreate that spirit for this game, to make sure we’re driven by the same forces.
“We’ve struggled for possession against the Italians in the past but if you play a limited game, you can keep the ball for long periods.
“They’re better than that now: they have some brilliance in their team and they play more expansively. We must approach this match in the right frame of mind.”