Italy v England Six Nations Preview

by Tom Fox

The first Six Nations clash of the weekend sees Italy welcome England to their new temporary home at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Despite a loss in disappointing circumstances to France last weekend, where they fell away in the second half, the Italians will have targeted this game at the beginning of the Championship as an opportunity to claim a sizeable scalp.

Last year saw France fall in Rome and it is well in the realms of possibility that another European powerhouse gets put to the sword this time around.

Stuart Lancaster’s England were far from impressive in their win over Scotland in Murrayfield last weekend and were greatly aided by Scotland’s lack of accuracy when it counted. Butchered try scoring opportunities by the Scots and a blocked down kick by Charlie Hodgson helped get them over the line.

However, this is essentially a new English side with a new coaching team (albeit temporary) in place. They will not be expecting miracles over night and Lancaster has plumped for the same team last weekend as the one who grinded out that arduous victory last weekend.

Italian coach Jacques Brunel has made two changes to the side for Saturday’s clash, both in the second row, with Aironi lock Marco Bortolami coming into the second row for Van Zyl and Quintin Geldenhuy replacing Alberto Sgarbi.

Italy will go after England up font from the outset, of that you can be sure. The Azzuri backline may have its limitations but they have no such problems up front where the likes of Martin Castrogiavanni and the imperious Sergio Parisse will lead the charge. Italy may well have an edge in this department.

If England can secure some decent set piece and breakdown ball, they stand a great chance; given their talent out wide. Italy simply do not possess outside backs of the calibre of an Ashton, Foden or Strettle.

The trio have pace to burn and will do some damage if England can manoeuvre the ball to them in some space.

It looks set to be a tight affair and one that Italy could well prevail in.

Italy (XV v England): A Masi;, G Venditti, T Benvenuti, G Canale, L McLean; K Burton, E Gori; A Lo Cicero, L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni, Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami, A Zanni, R Barbieri, S Parisse.

Replacements: T D’Apice, L Cittadini, A Pavanello, Mauro Bergamasco, F Semenzato, T Botes, L Morisi.

England (XV v Italy): B Foden; C Ashton, B Barritt, O Farrell, D Strettle; C Hodgson, B Youngs; A Corbisiero, D Hartley, D Cole, M Botha, T Palmer, T Croft, C Robshaw, P Dowson.

Replacements: R Webber, M Stevens, G Parling, B Morgan, L Dickson, J Turner-Hall, M Brown.

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