England will wait for Marler

  • Last Updated: March 13 2014, 20:53 GMT

England will know on Friday morning whether prop Joe Marler is available for the climax to their RBS 6 Nations against Italy.

Joe Marler: Partner is expecting their first child
Joe Marler: Partner is expecting their first child

Marler's partner is expecting their first child and the 23-year-old Harlequins loosehead has stayed in London to be present at the birth rather than accompany the squad to Rome.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has revealed that if Marler is unable to participate in the captain's run at the Stadio Olimpico on Friday afternoon, Mako Vunipola will be promoted to the started XV.

"Joe's partner is in labour as we speak so we're waiting to see how that plays out over the course of the day," Lancaster said.

"We'll make a decision before the captain's run on whether he will or won't take part in the game.

"Joe has to do the captain's run. I've already spoken to him about it.

"The good thing is we have a British and Irish Lion in Mako who can come in and who is desperate for an opportunity."

With Alex Corbisiero recovering from a knee injury, England will elevate Matt Mullan, their fourth-choice loosehead, to the bench against Italy.

"Matt played in the autumn internationals. There's no problem with him, he's been involved right throughout the campaign. He's a good player to come on," Lancaster said.

England are locked in a three-way battle for the Six Nations title alongside Ireland and France, although it is the Irish who occupy the driving seat due to their vastly superior points difference.

Victory in Rome in the opening match of the day is the minimum requirement with an avalanche of tries to overhaul the 49-point deficit on Brian O'Driscoll's men the perfect scenario.

Recent history points to a hard-fought encounter decided by one score, however, with England prevailing 19-15 in Rome two years ago and 18-11 in the return fixture at Twickenham last season.

Two such narrow wins that have made Lancaster cautious over targeting anything other than victory.

"Winning is the priority. We went there two years ago and there were different conditions. It was very difficult," he said.

"Look at the Scotland game, that was 21-20. Italy beat France last year and Ireland also lost. Wales and Australia both struggled two years ago.

"It's not an easy place to go and get a lot of points. We know what's coming."

England's Six Nations opened with an undeserved late defeat at the Stade de France, but they have since been propelled back into title contention with impressive victories over Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

Lancaster is determined that the resilience and skill that has enabled the Red Rose to rescue their hopes of claiming their first major piece of silverware since 2011 will be maintained until end.

"When we get out there I'm sure mentally we'll be excited about the game," he said.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to finish the Six Nations on a high.

"We want to make sure we put in a performance that backs up the previous performances we've put in so far. That's a big motivation for the players.

"It's always harder in the Six Nations when you have two games at home and three away.

"The character we've shown has been excellent throughout. The attitude and desire to improve has been exceptional.

"But we have to back that up with a final performance that means we leave the Six Nations in a positive state of mind for the New Zealand tour."

England team: M Brown (Harlequins); J Nowell (Exeter), L Burrell (Northampton), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), J May (Gloucester); O Farrell (Saracens), D Care (Harlequins); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Bath), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Gloucester).

Replacements: T Youngs (Leicester), M Vunipola (Saracens), H Thomas (Sale), D Attwood (Bath), T Johnson (Exeter), L Dickson (Northampton), G Ford (Bath), M Tuilagi (Leicester).

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