Italy head coach Franco Smith has cautioned his players over the danger of desperately seeking an end to their dismal run in the Guinness Six Nations. An array of grim statistics point to a harrowing afternoon in store when they face England at Twickenham with the aim of ending a 28-match losing run in the Championship that dates back to 2015.

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England have won all previous 27 encounters between the teams and have triumphed by an average of 31 points in their 10 Six Nations meetings at home.

And with Eddie Jones fielding a starting XV containing 810 caps compared to Italy’s 224, it is hard to envisage any scenario whereby the 69-1 underdogs spring one of the game’s greatest upsets.

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How Alun Wyn Jones and Jake Ball made up:

Smith acknowledges the uphill task ahead amid calls for relegation to be introduced into the Six Nations in response to the Azzurri’s shortcomings.

“The mountain in front of us is high, very high, but there is a road that goes up there and we will be on that road,” Smith said.

“It’s up to us to plot that journey and that is what we are doing. Our main opponents are not England, but ourselves. That is who we must focus on.

“We must also not be worried about getting the monkey off our back, looking to get one win in the Championship at any cost.

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“If that is all we work towards then it will be another five or six years before the next victory. It’s time for new faces, new icons in Italian rugby.

“I firmly believe that ending this drought will come from concentrating on how we play, on our basics, on quality actions, on being clinical and accurate.”

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