Lewis Moody: England must put aside thoughts of Wales and focus on Six Nations job against Italy

Moody Views: Courtney Lawes was not suited to No 6. The long-term solution lies in Tom Croft

We know there will be changes for England's game against Italy on Sunday and we know Courtney Lawes will not be playing in the No 6 jersey. Unfortunately, fielding the big man there against France was an experiment that did not work out.

Long term, the No 6 solution lies with Tom Croft. Whether or not he makes it on to the pitch for any of this Six Nations campaign – and Leicester and England deserve credit for the way they have allowed him a gradual return – he is the ideal man to wear that number and it is great to see him back in the frame.

He is an athlete, incredibly quick, a great line-out asset, a great ball player, a worker. He doesn't always do the nitty-gritty rucking and mauling but he is one of those guys you simply have to have in the team. If you are in any doubt as to what he can do around the field replay that try he ran in against France last year. He has the ability to change the course of a game and there are not many No 6s you can say that about.

I feel for Lawes. I thought trying him on the flank was a bad idea from the start. At club level you can get by at six as a second-rower – Louis Deacon did it at Leicester – but when you get to the international stage it's a different kettle of fish. You have to be absolutely spot on – there is no margin for error. Courtney did as well as his abilities in the position allowed but he was ultimately responsible for the French try in being caught out by Wesley Fofana and missing that crucial first tackle.

To be fair to the coach, Stuart Lancaster, there was an acceptance that this was one experiment that wasn't working and off Lawes went early in the second half. The realisation was that in a tight game you needed a specialist back-rower in there. It is not Lawes' best position – he should be allowed to focus on becoming a world-class lock and if he is given that opportunity he has the ability to do that. There is no point trying to make him an average No 6.

In the build-up to Sunday's game at Twickenham don't expect to hear a single mention of the word "Wales". Everyone will be toeing the party line: it's all about Italy. Of course, there is a game to be won first; this Italy side have improved and, with some intelligent, experienced forwards like Martin Castrogiovanni, will need to be worn down. But, inside, every England player will be well aware this is a game they are going to win, which means they will take the field at the Millennium Stadium with the opportunity to take a Grand Slam, and that doesn't come along too often.

In the back of their minds – certainly among those guys rested for this weekend – they will already be reviewing Wales. For the guys who come in against Italy – Toby Flood, possibly Danny Care, possibly Billy Twelvetrees, maybe David Strettle – it is the opportunity to push a claim for next weekend. Lancaster likes to say the shirt is yours to lose, so if you play well against Italy then you are making a case to start against Wales.

Sometimes one injury can make all the difference – look at Ben Foden. He was playing extraordinarily well then got injured and along come Alex Goode and Mike Brown, and now he's not even in the squad. That's how cut-throat international rugby is.

I see England winning by 25 points. It is important for them to keep the momentum going, get a good score and show everyone that the progress continues. The first 25 minutes will be a challenge and will probably see a few penalties traded, but then England should start to break down the Italians with their runners and the intelligence with which they have been playing under Lancaster.

It will be much closer at Murrayfield. I am not expecting an epic contest but I see Wales having enough to win and set up the match in Cardiff next weekend. The Scots, off the back of those two home wins, will have massive confidence – they are always better at home. But Wales have too much firepower in the backs. If they get their kicking game right they will beat Scotland. It will be close. I take Wales by seven points.

Which leaves Ireland against France in a possible wooden-spoon decider, and that is not something you could ever have expected. This is almost an impossible one to call but I will go for France. If they don't win, for a team of such quality to end up with the wooden spoon would be unbelievable – and almost amusing for an Englishman.

Lewis Moody is a TAG Heuer ambassador

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions