Rugby Union

England defence coach Paul Gustard is refusing to underestimate Italy.

Gustard urges England to guard against Italy shock

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England may never have lost to Italy, but defence coach Paul Gustard knows from bitter experience the perils of complacency in Rome.

After one round of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations, only two teams have a chance of the Grand Slam, including England who have not achieved the feat of a clean sweep since 2003.

Eddie Jones' side, who beat Scotland 15-9 in Edinburgh last weekend, travel to Rome on Sunday to play the Azzurri, perennial Wooden Spoon contenders.

But Gustard, in particular, will not be underestimating Italy, despite hazy memories of a defeat during his playing days.

"Unfortunately I was involved in an England A team that lost... the very first England team at any level to lose to Italy," Gustard said.

"So it does happen. If you focus on too many other things or you look too far ahead or you look towards Ireland or Wales and so on and start dreaming of other things, you'll trip up fast.

"They've got a lot of good players, playing in competitive leagues as well, and they ran a good French team close at the weekend."

France are the other side in contention for a Grand Slam after Ireland and Wales drew in Dublin, with England determined to succeed after finishing runners-up in the last four tournaments and the disappointment of their premature World Cup exit last autumn.

Gustard insists the end goal is not in England's minds.

"You take one eye off the path, you've got one eye on the goal, you trip up somewhere on the floor," Gustard added.

"We just try to keep two eyes focused on the task ahead. It's a big task.

"Back to back away games, to go across to Rome this weekend, against a team that will be buoyed with confidence in their own performance, travelling to France.

"It'll be tough for us this weekend. Stay focused."

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