England hero Jonny Wilkinson has urged Steve Borthwick’s side to up their game after a nervy win over Italy in their Six Nations opener. A 27-24 victory was sealed after England came from behind at the Stadio Olimpico.
Italy led 17-14 at half-time with a below-par England performance causing concern for Wilkinson. The 2003 World Cup winner believes Ireland have set a benchmark in the Six Nations after defeating France 38-17 on Friday – and says England need to match the energy of the Irish team.
A second-half turnaround meant England did not suffer a disappointing defeat in their first game of the tournament. Alex Mitchell touched down five minutes into the second period and George Ford kicked the visitors to victory with a conversion.
Wilkinson has told England’s players to be more ruthless in order to raise their performances ahead of their February 10 clash with Wales.
“I think the bar has been set very high by Ireland and that’s the question now and the energy the England team want to play with,” the 44-year-old told ITV.
“Can England marry that with just this desire, almost ruthless need to get things at a certain level? Next week it’s going to step up, it’s going to step right up, and there were certain things here which just won’t cut it.
“I think bringing that whilst maintaining that sense of togetherness, team spirit and just keep pushing that intensity because otherwise it’s going to be up, down, up, down. With Ireland, you see what they bring every week. It’s just there.
“You can feel it when they’re walking in the stadium 100 metres away, you can feel something is here. England have got to find that.”
Borthwick admitted that his side looked ‘clunky’ at times during their win over the Italians. However, he pointed out that it was the reflection of a team who had only trained together three times before the match.
“I think there are certainly positives to pull out of it, but it looked clunky in bits. It looked like a team which only had three training sessions together, but credit to Italy,” the England head coach said.
“They had a certain part of cohesion picking players from one club which sits second in the United Rugby Championship. But a winning start with five debutants and the ability to be in a difficult position and find your way out of it is a massive positive.