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Match Preview – England vs Italy

We preview England's visit of Italy in the Six Nations this Saturday

We preview England's visit of Italy in the Six Nations this Saturday

We preview England’s visit of Italy in the Six Nations this Saturday

England host Italy at Twickenham on Saturday (kick-off 4.45pm) in the fourth round of this year’s Six Nations.

England will look to put the frustration of seeing their Grand Slam dreams ended in Wales to one side as they look to secure a third bonus-point victory of the campaign at home to Italy.

Conor O’Shea’s Azzurri will look to play on any nerves and will have taken encouragement from giving Ireland a scare during their last fixture.

The previous time Italy visited Twickenham, they deployed strange ruck tactics which initially threw England, so what can we expect this weekend?

With Eddie Jones’ side still in contention to win the championship, we take a look at some of the key talking points…

How experimental should England be?

England attack coach Scott Wisemantel, whose appointment to Jones’ management team has coincided with England’s flourishing attacking game, views the fixture as the platform for minor experimentation.

“It’s an opportunity to change a few things, so we’ll look to mix it up a little bit,” the Australian said.

“But look at the teams who have played Italy – they haven’t changed a lot. Scotland, Wales and Ireland have stuck to their structures and we won’t go too far away from ours.

“It will be interesting to see what Italy bring, so we’ve prepared for all sorts of scenarios.

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England are ready to adapt if Italy again arrive at Twickenham with unexpected tactics, says coach Neal Hatley

England are ready to adapt if Italy again arrive at Twickenham with unexpected tactics, says coach Neal Hatley

“It’s a really exciting prospect because it freshens up the programme and freshens up the players and makes them explore possibilities. It’s good.”

In Cardiff, poor discipline and rigid tactics resulted in a second-half English collapse.

But facing the Six Nations whipping boys at home having had two weeks to stew on that disappointment, England know the championship is still in reach, and a third handsome win of the campaign will remain the focal point.

Do Italy need to bring more unusual tactics?

Italy found a loophole in the laws two years ago when not committing men to breakdowns beyond the initial tackler.

By avoiding the formation of rucks, offside was rendered irrelevant and it resulted in Italy holding a 10-5 lead at half-time against an England side who had won their previous nine Six Nations fixtures.

But despite three defeats so far, there have been signs they won’t have to resort to such an unusual strategy this time around.

Italy deployed unusual tactics when they faced England two years ago Italy deployed unusual tactics when they faced England two years ago

Italy deployed unusual tactics when they faced England two years ago

Italy are on a five-match losing streak, but they were aggressive, well-organised defensively and lively on the counter-attack against Ireland in their previous encounter.

Furthermore, captain Sergio Parisse has recovered from a head injury to re-join the squad.

The Azzurri have put up a fight against Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and if they come with the same physicality against England, they could at least make a mockery of all the negativity surrounding the camp.

They have nothing to lose, and nothing to fear when they arrive in the capital this weekend.

RWC planning the primary objective for England?

England struggled against Japan in November, and they will need to be insular and focus on their game plan for 80 minutes, having only done so for 40 minutes in Cardiff a fortnight ago.

Jones likes to mix things up against tier-two sides and this weekend should be no different – especially after such a demoralising loss in Wales.

Eddie Jones will look to secure a third bonus-point win against Italy Eddie Jones will look to secure a third bonus-point win against Italy

Eddie Jones will look to secure a third bonus-point win against Italy

Brad Shields has only played four minutes of rugby in the past five weeks, but Italy represents an opportunity after being named on the bench in Cardiff.

Wasps’ Dan Robson is likely to win a second international cap to add to his 10 minutes against France – albeit he is named on the bench again. Jones needs to start streamlining ahead of Japan, and Robson in particular needs to be tested to see if he is a viable World Cup contender.

Dan Robson will be eager to have the opportunity to impress against Italy Dan Robson will be eager to have the opportunity to impress against Italy

Dan Robson will be eager to have the opportunity to impress against Italy

Ben Youngs would appear set in stone as Jones’ man at scrum-half having played 82 times for his country, but should anything happen to the Leicester Tigers man, England need to have a replacement that instils confidence in the group.

Robson needs time to demonstrate he can take his skills to the international stage, at least as a finisher. Will he be handed that opportunity on Saturday?

Team News

England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 George Kruis, 6 Brad Shields, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Nathan Hughes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Henry Slade.

Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Michele Campagnaro, Angelo Esposito, Tommaso Allan, Tito Tebaldi; 1 Andrea Lovotti, 2 Luca Bigi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 4 Federico Ruzza, 5 Dean Budd, 6 Sebastian Negri, 7 Abraham Steyn, 8 Sergio Parisse (c),

Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 David Sisi, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Tommaso Castello.

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