Ellis Genge has demanded England look inwards for inspiration rather than relying on the roar of Twickenham when they face an Italy side in the ascendancy.
Steve Borthwick’s reign opened with a 29-23 defeat by Scotland and while the Azzurri have traditionally been the weakest opponents in the Guinness Six Nations, they have been revitalised by last year’s victories over Wales and Australia.
Even though the Calcutta Cup ultimately remained in Scottish hands the buzz had returned to Twickenham. However, Sunday matches at the venue tend to produce more muted atmospheres.
Genge, England’s vice-captain, insists his team must “find our own fire” in their pursuit of their first win under Eddie Jones’ successor.
“I’d be worried if we don’t motivate ourselves to be honest,” the Bristol prop said.
“If we’re not trying to win and are relying on the fans to give us the energy to do so, we are probably not in the right spot.
“It’s brilliant to have a loud crowd and loads of noise but in the same breath it’s not something we’re necessarily relying on – we have got to find our own fire.”
England have won all 29 previous encounters against their round two opponents, but for the first time since entering the Six Nations in 2000 Italy are viewed as a genuine threat.
Their 36-Test losing run in the tournament ended against Wales last year and they built on that by toppling Australia 28-27 in Florence a few months later, before taking France to the wire in a 29-24 loss last Saturday.
“There were all those articles about whether Italy should be replaced in the Six Nations by Georgia, but they have really showed their worth over the last few fixtures,” Genge said.
“They had that big win in Wales away from home and played brilliantly against France, so they are definitely no mugs.
“Everyone was reasonably shocked about how close it was against France and they had every opportunity to win if a few things went their way.”
The increasingly familiar sight of Scotland lifting the Calcutta Cup provided a disappointing start to the post-Jones era, but Borthwick is starting from the ground up having insisted he inherited an England side that “wasn’t good at anything”.
“You see those teams who are in a four-year cycle putting the final touches to their teams, but our situation is different. It’s clear why that is.
“We can’t do anything about what is gone before. All we can do is maximise every day going forward.
“We tried to do that when we came into camp two-and-a-half weeks ago and tried to do it during the Scotland game.
“I want this team to deliver, to win. I want the supporters and players to be proud of this team. I am also pretty clear about how much work there is to do and want to get on with it.
“There were certain things that improved during the Scotland game but we need more growth in other areas. I want England to go into every game in a position to try and find a way to win.”