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England unchanged for Italy in Six Nations

England interim coach Stuart Lancaster named an unchanged 22 on Thursday for the Six Nations Championship match away to Italy in Rome on Saturday.

After seeing his reign as temporary England boss start with a 13-6 win away to Scotland last weekend, it was no surprise that Lancaster stuck with the same match-day squad that delivered the team's first Calcutta Cup victory at Murrayfield for eight years.

Charlie Hodgson, who scored England's decisive try in Edinburgh, continues at fly-half after overcoming a shoulder injury and will form an all Saracens midfield trio alongside centres Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt, both of whom made their Test debuts last weekend.

England (15-1)

Ben Foden (Northampton); Chris Ashton (Northampton), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Owen Farrell (Saracens), David Strettle (Saracens); Charlie Hodgson (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester); Phil Dowson (Northampton), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Tom Croft (Leicester); Tom Palmer (Stade Francais/FRA), Mouritz Botha (Saracens); Dan Cole (Leicester), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish)

Replacements: Rob Webber (London Wasps), Matt Stevens (Saracens), Geoff Parling (Leicester), Ben Morgan (Scarlets/WAL), Lee Dickson (Northampton), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Mike Brown (Harlequins)

Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw captains the side for the second time following the Calcutta Cup success in what will be the first international rugby match played at Rome's Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the pack, Northampton's Phil Dowson stays at No 8 and will be in direct opposition to impressive Italy captain Sergio Parisse, with Ben Morgan looking to star off the bench as he did when coming on for his debut against Scotland.

Reserve scrum-half Lee Dickson has been passed fit despite a hand injury, with Lancaster again opting for a four-three split between forwards and backs on the bench.

"We have decided to leave the starting team the same to allow them more time to gel together and we are expecting our bench to come on and make an impact as they did last week," said Lancaster.

"Italy will be a very difficult challenge with nearly 700 caps in their starting line-up and it promises to be an outstanding occasion at the sold-out Stadio Olimpico."

Wasps hooker Rob Webber was the only one of England's eight uncapped players at Murrayfield who did not get on the field.

Harlequins prop Joe Marler and Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson will travel to Rome with the squad on Thursday to provide injury cover.

England are still without fly-half/centre Toby Flood and centre Manu Tuilagi, although both players could feature for Leicester this weekend as they aim to put themselves in contention to face Wales on February 25.

Northampton forwards Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood remain injured.

Italy, beaten 30-12 by tournament favourites France last weekend, saw coach Jacques Brunel make two changes Wednesday, with lock Marco Bortolami and centre Gonzalo Canale drafted into the starting XV.

Meanwhile experienced flanker Mauro Bergamasco was included on the bench following the shoulder injury that ruled him out of last year's Six Nations.

England have won all 17 of their previous Tests against Italy and they are the only team in the Championship the Azzurri have never beaten.

AFP

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