Ellis: England should plan for 2011

ENGLAND are missing a trick in not following France’s lead and looking long-term towards the 2011 World Cup, according to Les Bleus defence coach David Ellis.

The two countries, who meet in an RBS 6 Nations Championship clash in Paris on Saturday, have approached the tournament with different mindsets.

While new France head coach Marc Lievremont is blooding plenty of raw talent in a bid to give them Test experience, England coach Brian Ashton has for the most part been happy to stick with his tried and tested. Ellis, a Yorkshireman who has been part of France’s backroom staff since 2001, reckons England are making a mistake in preoccupying themselves with the here and now. “I am just disappointed that England are going to miss another opportunity to make changes,” said the 50-year-old.

“With France, they are putting the youngsters in and not worrying about the consequences. With England, it is always, ‘Is he good enough?’

“If he’s good enough, he’s old enough. They made that mistake after they won the World Cup in 2003 and regretted it in the build-up to the last World Cup,” he said.

Meanwhile, Italian coach Nick Mallett has defended his decision to choose Andrea Marcato as a replacement for injured full-back David Bortolussi.

The Montpellier player, who started against Ireland and England, is unavailable for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations game against Wales in Cardiff after suffering a shoulder injury during training with his French club.

Mallett had been expected to select Andrea Masi to replace Bortolussi, who may be sidelined for the remainder of the Six Nations, but decided to turn to the inexperienced Marcato, who has just four international caps. Mallett said: “I know very well that Masi was groomed as a centre and Marcato as fly-half, and that for many it would be obvious to revert to the roles they have in the national team from now until the end of the tournament.

“But for me it is crucial to continue to develop Masi at fly-half, because I believe he has the capacity and it would be a mistake to stop his learning process,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Thomas has learned from bitter past experience not to underestimate Italy and he vowed Wales will not make the same mistake this weekend. Wales have not beaten Italy since the 2005 Grand Slam campaign, drawing 18-18 at home two years ago and losing to the Azzurri in Rome last season.

Wales head into Saturday’s clash on the back of successive victories over England and Scotland and with a shot at the Triple Crown to come.

But Thomas is refusing to contemplate the trip to Dublin in just over a fortnight, or allow himself to be distracted by pub talk of a potential title challenge. Italy may have opened their campaign with two defeats, but both Ireland and England were given a real scare and Thomas knows the Azzurri are capable of bursting Welsh rugby’s new-found optimism.

“The biggest danger for us would be to look past Italy. They have caused us problems in the last two years and it would be hugely disrespectful not to focus on this game,” he said.

Italy v Wales: A Marcato (Treviso); A Sgarbi (Treviso), G Canale (Clermont-Auvergne), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais), E Galon (Overmach Parma); A Masi (Biarritz), S Picone (Treviso); S Perugini (Toulouse), L Ghiraldini (Calvisano), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester), S Dellape’ (Biarritz), CA del Fava (Ulster), J Sole (Viadana), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais), S Parisse (Stade Francais).

Replacements: C Festuccia (Racing-Metro), A lo Cicero (Racing-Metro), M Bortolami (Gloucester), A Zanni (Calvisano), Pietro Travagli (Overmarch Parma), P Buso (Calvisano), E Patrizio (Petrarca Padova).

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