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England v Italy: Everything you need to know

By Harry West
Ben Te'o in England training

England will start as strong favourites to continue their winning run and a charge towards a second successive Six Nations grand slam when they host Italy on Sunday.

Eddie Jones’ side come into the clash at Twickenham on a run of 16 consecutive wins – although the first of those was earned under predecessor Stuart Lancaster.

And their head-to-head record with the Azzurri points towards a home victory – England have triumphed in all 22 of their meetings with Italy.

Jones makes four changes from the narrow win over Wales in Cardiff a fortnight ago, including Ben Te’o gaining his first start at centre in place of Jonathan Joseph – who scored a hat-trick the last time these two sides met.

Italy have lost heavily at home to Wales and Ireland in their opening two fixtures, leading some to question the wisdom of their continued participation in the competition.

Like opposite number Jones, head coach Conor O’Shea has also made four changes as the Azzurri look to upset the odds and avoid a 10th straight Six Nations defeat.

HEAD TO HEAD

England: 22

Italy: 0

Draw: 0

 

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2016?

England overcame a sluggish first-half showing to prevail 40-9 in Rome. The visitors only led 11-9 at the break, but Joseph’s hat-trick and Owen Farrell’s try added to George Ford’s score in the opening period.

 

KEY PLAYERS

Ben Te’o (England)

Te’o came off the bench to score a late match-winning try against France in England’s opener. The Worcester Warriors centre is given the chance to impress from the start this time, and his partnership with Farrell in the midfield, where Joseph has been a shining light, could be pivotal to create the space England may need if they are targeting their first winning bonus point of the campaign.

Tommaso Allan (Italy)

One of the four Italy changes, replacing Carlo Canno at fly-half. It will be Allan’s first start at 10 for the Azzurri since a clash with Canada in June and if Italy are to have any chance of causing an upset, he will have to be accurate from the tee to punish any English ill-discipline.

 

THE LINE-UPS

England: Mike Brown, Jonny May, Ben Te’o, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Danny Care; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley (captain), Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, James Haskell, Nathan Hughes.

Italy: Edoardo Padovani, Giulio Bisegni, Michele Campagnaro, Luke McLean, Giovanbattista Venditti, Tommaso Allan, Edoardo Gori; Andrea Lovotti, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Marco Fuser, Dries Van Schalkwyk, Abraham Steyn, Simone Favaro, Sergio Parisse (captain).

COACH COMMENTS

Eddie Jones (England): “There was never any doubt Dylan [Hartley] was going to be captain and never any doubt he was going to start. Obviously Jamie [George] is disappointed, because he wants the spot. And at some stage he will get it. Dylan can’t play until he’s 50.”

Conor O’Shea (Italy): “We’re going into our Colosseum this weekend. Everybody is having a pop. People look for cheap and easy headlines. I would question whether some actually believe it but the world in which we live has no grey areas, only black and white. We know that.”

OPTA STATS

– England have conceded an average of just three first half points across their last seven home games against Italy.

– England are looking for a 10th consecutive Six Nations win, which would equal the tournament record set by them twice before (1882 to 1886 and 1922 to 1925).

– Italy have lost 40 of their 43 previous away games in the Six Nations (W2, D1), with those two wins both coming at Murrayfield (draw v Wales in 2006).

– England are only two shy of becoming the first team to score 250 Six Nations tries, while their five tries per game against Italy are their most against any Six Nations opponent.

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Jon 2 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Sopoaga is going to be more than good enough to look up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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f
finn 11 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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