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02 Feb 2018 by TSZ

2018 Six Nations Championship – Italy vs England Preview

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AT A GLANCE

When? Sunday 4th February, 15:00

Where? Stadio Olimpico

What channel is it on? ITV, FR2, TV3, DMAX, NBC

Where can I stream the match? ITV Player

Are tickets still available? http://www.ticketone.it/biglie...

THE LOWDOWN

ITALY

Head Coach: Conor O'Shea

Line-up: Matteo Minozzi (Zebre), Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton), Tommaso Boni (Zebre), Tommaso Castello (Zebre), Mattia Bellini (Zebre), Tommaso Allan (Benetton), Marcello Violi (Zebre), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais, capt), Renato Giammarioli (Zebre), Sebastian Negri (Benetton), Dean Budd (Benetton), Alessandro Zanni (Benetton), Simone Ferrari (Benetton), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Stade Toulosain), Andrea Lovotti (Zebre)

Replacements: Luca Bigi (Benetton), Nicola Quaglio (Benetton), Tiziano Pasquali (Benetton), George Biagi (Zebre), Maxime Mbanda (Zebre), Edoardo Gori (Benetton), Carlo Canna (Zebre), Jayden Hayward (Benetton)

  • The Italians have shown signs of development in recent times and their domestic teams are performing above expectations in the PRO14 but this is likely to be another tough Six Nations campaign for them especially with the opener against favourites England.
  • They will continue to look towards 129-cap stalwart Sergio Parisse for inspiration and their respected coaching team of Conor O'Shea, Mike Catt and Wayne Smith who will need to design some more innovative tactics and plays to bridge the quality gap with their opponents.
  • After losing all five matches last year, scoring the fewest points and conceding the most, they will look to take at least one scalp this year and compete harder in more of their matches but the odds will be against them in every game.

ENGLAND

Head Coach: Eddie Jones

Line-up: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Anthony Watson (Bath), Ben Te'o (Worcester Warriors), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers); Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)

Replacements: Jamie George (Saracens), Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs), George Kruis (Saracens), Sam Underhill (Bath), Danny Care (Harlequins), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)

  • England come into this Six Nations season having won the last two editions and a phenomenal record under Eddie Jones so they understandably have big expectations to live up to.
  • The list of players unavailable to Jones when he named his squad to face Italy was 13 but that has grown noticeably since as Henry Slade has been ruled out for four weeks due to a shoulder injury, Kyle Sinckler was sent home from their training camp in Portugal due to a hamstring complaint and Jack Nowell is not 100% fit.
  • He also has question marks over Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown for this opening game which does not help their cause although they should recover but it is at No 8 and loosehead prop with Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes on the sidelines that England are without key ball-carriers in their pack.

THE KEY STATS

  • Italy have been losing at HT in 15 of their last 17 matches in the Six Nations.
  • Italy have lost each of their last 12 matches in the Six Nations.
  • Italy have lost each of their last 12 matches in the Six Nations by an average of 30.5 points per game.
  • Italy have lost each of their last 10 home matches in the Six Nations.
  • Italy have conceded the first try of the match in 11 of their last 13 matches in the Six Nations.
  • Italy have conceded the final try of the match in 9 of their last 10 matches in the Six Nations.
  • Italy have conceded an average of five tries per game during their last 18 matches in the Six Nations.
  • There has been an average of 6.2 tries scored per game during Italy’s last 20 matches in the Six Nations.
  • There has been an average of 55.4 points per game scored during Italy’s last 10 matches in the Six Nations.
  • During Italy’s last 10 home matches in the Six Nations they have scored an aggregate total of 36 second half points whilst conceding an aggregate total of 267 points second half points.
  • Italy have conceded an average of 40.1 points per game during their last 10 home matches in the Six Nations.
  • Italy have scored a total of only seven tries during their previous nine home matches against England in the Six Nations.
  • England have won all 18 matches they have played against Italy in the Six Nations.
  • England have won each of their previous nine away matches against Italy in the Six Nations.
  • England have scored the first try of the match in seven of their previous eight away matches against Italy in the Six Nations.
  • England have scored an average of 4.6 tries per game in their nine previous away matches against Italy in the Six Nations.
  • England have scored the first try of the game in 13 of their last 16 matches against Italy in the Six Nations.
  • England have scored an average of six tries per game during their last four matches against Italy in the Six Nations.
  • England have been winning at HT in only one of their last five matches in the Six Nations.
  • England have won 17 of their last 19 matches in the Six Nations,

THE PREDICTION

England are favourites to win the Six Nations and this match against Italy is considered a formality despite the lengthy injury list that Eddie Jones has to contend with. The Italians will be motivated at home to spring an upset and may well have a few tricks up their sleeve as they did last year when they managed to negate the offside rule at the ruck and swarm into England's lines. However, the gulf in quality even with this weakened England side will prove too much with the visitors expected to pull away increasingly late in this game.

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