Six Nations 2024: England captain Jamie George wants 'intensity' in curtain-raiser against Italy

Jamie George

Guinness Six Nations: Italy v England

Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Saturday, 3 February Kick-off: 14:15 GMT

Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra; live text and match highlights on BBC Sport website and app; watch live on ITV1.

"We want to play at an intensity we haven't played at before."

This is a new England and Jamie George is clear in his ambition on the eve of his first Six Nations as captain.

England claimed the bronze medal in the World Cup last year but were often criticised for their style of play and pragmatic kicking game.

George will lead his charges for the first time against Italy on Saturday, with the chance of ending England's poor run of opening-round defeats in the past four Six Nations.

The visitors will be favourites to extend their perfect record against the Azzurri, but George wants a performance fitting of the travelling "white wall" of England fans expected in the Italian capital.

"There are specific things we are looking to go after in attack, defence and kicking game, but we want to play at an intensity we haven't played at before," George told BBC Sport.

"We want to put teams under pressure both sides of the ball. There was a lot of talk about the style of play we had in the World Cup and [attack coach] Richard Wigglesworth has been unbelievable in terms of putting things in place for our attack.

"The way we have taken it on and are trying to express ourselves, I know we will be able to put that on the field on Saturday.

"We genuinely want a connection with the fans and we will have a white wall in Rome who we can inspire and make happy and get off their seats.

"That comes with a certain type of performance. I'm not saying we will throw the ball around from here, there and everywhere but you will see a lot of fight and character, and a team that are trying to push the opposition."

George - who was named captain after Owen Farrell made himself unavailable for selection - and his senior team-mates will be supported in their bid to up the ante by an exciting crop of young talent.

The experienced hooker and his vice-captain George Ford, veteran prop Joe Marler, lock Maro Itoje and wing Elliot Daly all remain, but five players could make their Test debuts.

Flanker Ethan Roots and centre Fraser Dingwall will win their first caps from the start, while fly-half Fin Smith, wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and flanker Chandler Cunningham-South could all come off the bench.

Fraser Dingwall, Tommy Freeman and Alex Mitchel
Fraser Dingwall (left) will play alongside familiar faces in an England backline which includes Northampton wing Tommy Freeman (middle) and scrum-half Alex Mitchell (right), while fly-half Fin Smith could also make his debut from the bench

George added: "We have five potential new caps who have all been absolutely brilliant this week. I don't think I've ever seen a team with that sort of mindset at the start of campaign in terms of how quickly they wanted to learn, build on the plan and put it out on the field."

Head coach Steve Borthwick is also eager to see his side "evolve" as they look to challenge pre-tournament favourites Ireland and France.

"This is a group of players with a mix of experience and those that are new to Test rugby," Borthwick told BBC Sport.

"I never thought I'd be naming five new caps in a 23-player squad and we really want to attack this game. We want to evolve and add a variety to our game, and I want the players to play with an intensity and a fight on the pitch."

Azzurri buying into 'new methodologies'

Italy began their World Cup campaign with two victories in their opening two games but then capitulated against New Zealand and France.

The Azzurri conceded 96 points in the defeat by the All Blacks before they shipped another 60 against the hosts.

Before Ange Capuozzo's late withdrawal from the opener with England, 11 players had retained their place in the side from that mauling by France.

The big change is in the dugout where former Argentina fly-half Gonzalo Quesada has replaced Kieran Crowley as head coach.

Italy claimed the Wooden Spoon last year and have never beaten England, but Quesada says his players have quickly adapted to the introduction of his "new methodologies".

"We know that England will put us under lots of pressure. Not everything we do will be perfect due to the small amount of time we've had together, but the preparation for the match has been good," said Quesada.

"What is certain is that we will see an Italian team with an extraordinary amount of will, passion and desire to do well."

Lock Federico Ruzza is set to win his 50th cap, while the Garbisi brothers - fly-half Paolo and scrum-half Alessandro - make their first start together in a Test match.

The loss of exciting wing Capuozzo to illness, however, will be a blow for the hosts as they look to kickstart the Quesada reign with a first win over England.