Stuart Lancaster urged England to focus on their own Six Nations fate
Stuart Lancaster insists England must give Italy their full attention and not think about Six Nations title rivals.
Last Updated: 13/03/14 5:28pm
England face a tense final day of the tournament as they need a handsome win in Rome to keep the pressure on Ireland and France, who collide in the late Saturday kick-off.
Ireland can take the title with a rare win at the Stade de France, while France still have an outside chance, although they must close an unfavourable points difference.
There are plenty of permutations for England to mull over, but Lancaster is refusing to look past Italy, who have proved stubborn opponents in recent years.
Past results have shown that Italy are no pushovers and the head coach urged England to focus on their own fate.
"That is the priority, we went there two years ago and it was different conditions and different evolution of our team at that point," he said. "It was very difficult.
"When you look at the Scotland game - 21-20 - you look at them beating France last year in the Six Nations. Ireland struggled, Wales struggled two years ago.
"Australia struggled in 2012 - 22-19, even New Zealand that year it was a 44-10 win for New Zealand, but only through three tries in the last few minutes. It's not an easy place to go and get a lot of points.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to finish the Six Nations on a high point. We want to make sure we put in a performance that backs up the previous performances so far and that's a big motivation for the players."
France have already handed England some heartache with a late win on their own soil and Lancaster feels they are fully capable of shattering Irish hopes.
But he expects a tense encounter and will not give the match more throught until England's job is done.
"France beat us and we were pretty pleased with that performance that day," he said.
"We've seen them in that arena there how strong they are, but Ireland are a quality side, well coached, and they have got good players and good cohesion at the moment.
"I'm sure it will be a tight game over there, but it's an uncontrollable for us, we've just got to concentrate on the Italians."
Lancaster admitted there could be a late change to the line-up as the partner of loosehead prop Joe Marler is due to give birth to their first child.
If Marler is unable to make it to Rome in time for the captain's run on Friday afternoon, Mako Vunipola will be promoted to the starting XV with Matt Mullan taking his position on the bench.
"Joe's partner is in labour as we speak so we're waiting to see how that goes. We'll make a decision on Friday," he said.
"He's got to be at the captain's run. I spoke to Joe this morning and the good thing is we have a British and Irish Lion on the bench in Mako, who wants to start.
"Matt played in the autumn internationals and is a good player to come in on the bench."
The fit-again Manu Tuilagi is named among the replacements and Lancaster has warned the Leicester centre about the fierce competition for places.
"He's had that extra week's training now so he's certainly ready and we're pleased with the way he's trained and he's a good player," said Lancaster.
"There's a good back-line playing well as well. I'm certainly happy with the way Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell have been playing and Jonny (May) and Jack (Nowell) on the wings have been exceptional as well.
"We're not just going to drop them all at half-time and bring Manu on."