- Alphonsi won 74 caps for England
- The 2014 World Cup winner scored 28 tries for her country
- Tickets available here for England v Italy
Former England flanker Maggie Alphonsi previews Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations clash between the Red Roses and Italy at Twickenham Stoop (kick off 1pm, live on Sky Sports 2).
“Italy is a side that’s building and growing. They beat France in the 2015 Six Nations so they are certainly no pushovers, England cannot be complacent against them.
“Italy will want to come to The Stoop and get a win, they are a passionate team willing to play some good rugby. You just can’t afford to count them out, England need to start well and keep up the tempo for 80 minutes if they want to secure a good win.”
Aylesford Bulls starlet
“For me Italy’s key player is Manuela Furlan, who plays in the English Women’s Premiership for Aylesford Bulls. Like Danielle Waterman, she’s a well-balanced runner from full-back. She not only has good footwork but she’s also a good finisher, scoring a great try in their first match of the competition against Wales.
“At Aylesford Bulls Furlan has scored five tries in the Women’s Premiership so far this season. She has an understanding of the English game and will have played with or against most of the Red Roses before.
“The full back is a key, knowledgeable player for Italy and is very much like Sergio Parisse for the men’s side in what she brings to the table.”
Fast start important for England
“In 2015 Italy scored the first points of the game after 27 minutes through a try from second row Flavia Severin and it took England until the second half to regroup.
“It’s important for England to continue the momentum they had against Wales. Italy can be similar to France, their strong ball carriers like to make hard yards. England need to make sure they have a solid defence and contain Italy’s physical forwards.
“It’s all about building on the 63-0 win against Wales. The Red Roses will want to be clinical, accurate, and effective in all areas of the pitch, so to counteract this Italy will try and disrupt them as much as possible to capitalise on any mistakes England make.”
Chance for players to prove their worth
“If the Red Roses do make any changes it’s important the players coming in fill that shirt and play at the same tempo and intensity shown against Wales. It’s their opportunity to shine, some players don’t get a lot of chances from a starting berth. It can be difficult at times to prove yourself in 15 or 20 minutes from the bench.
“This could be the opportunity for players to stake their claim with the Women’s Rugby World Cup this summer. Competition for places will be fierce and with just over six months to go before the tournament kicks off, players will want to put their best foot forward.”
‘You know you’ve been in a hard-fought encounter’
“My biggest memory of playing Italy has to be the first 20 minutes of the match. You don’t know what has hit you. They like to come out of the blocks from the start. They’re very physical so you have to make sure you’re accurate in the tackle and with the ball in hand. When you wake up the day after the match you know you’ve been in a hard-fought encounter because your body is more sore than normal.
“You have to work hard for the win. They have a big strong pack and always have good ball carriers, that’s something you always remember."
Red Roses return to the Stoop
“It’s going to be great seeing the Red Roses back at the Stoop. Obviously it’s fantastic as a player to play at Twickenham but the Stoop is now the Red Roses’ spiritual home and the atmosphere there is brilliant.
“England have only lost on two occasions at the Stoop (both times against New Zealand) so it is a tough place for opposing teams to come and play rugby. The crowd really gets behind the team and it has become a bit of a fortress. That’s only going to work in their favour.”
Good luck this weekend Red Roses!
England Women Six Nations fixtures
England v Italy
Saturday 25 February, KO 1pm, live on Sky Sports 2
Tickets available here
England v Scotland
Saturday 11 March, KO 1pm, coverage delayed until 8pm on Sky Sports 2
Tickets available here
Ireland v England
Friday 17 March, KO 8pm, live on Sky Sports Mix
Donnybrook Stadium, Dublin
N.B. Channel information subject to change.