Guinness Six Nations: Italy vs England
place: Olympic Stadium, Rome date: Saturday 3 February Starting: 14:15 GMT
coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra; Live text on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch live on ITV
Italy, perennial underdogs, will need to match England's physicality if they are to beat them for the first time, says Azzurri half-half Stephen Varney.
Italy begin their Six Nations campaign in Rome on Saturday, having lost all 30 of their previous matches to England.
“We expect England to outpace us with a lot of pace in defence, so it's important that our skill set is there to get around them,” Varney said.
“They have their own kicking style and strong set-pieces as well.”
England outscored Italy by 1,197 points to 356, but Gloucester's number nine Varney says the class of 2024, under new coach Gonzalo Quesada, wants to set a new standard in Italian rugby.
“Our ambition is to become the best Italian team ever,” the 22-year-old, who was born in Wales but qualified for Italy through his grandparents, told BBC Sport.
“It's a big challenge for our attacking line, but if we can confront them physically, our attack will step in and we can score many tries.
“In the last two years, our attack has been very strong. Gonazlo has come in and wants us to attack with speed of the ball, which is huge for us.”
The Italian national team won two of its five matches in 2007 and 2013, but has won the wooden spoon in the past eight years.
Varney, who will start the match on the bench, added: “In 2007 and 2013, Italy had two victories and our goal is to overcome that. We want to put in performances that we are happy with and we hope that the results will take care of themselves.” .
He added: “We have to take each week as it comes and try to win every match, starting with England.”
Varney has won 24 caps after making his debut against Scotland as a 19-year-old in 2020, and says his confidence has increased since stepping onto the international stage as a teenager.
He added: “I was very young in my first Nations Championship, and obviously confidence is a big thing when you play at this level, but I worked on improving my mental game.”
“You always prepare yourself physically, but I think it is very important to prepare mentally, especially for the upcoming high-pressure matches.”
“Coffee trailblazer. Passionate thinker. Creator. Hipster-friendly internet enthusiast.”