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It has not been the easiest of preparations for the defending champions, with Eddie Jones seeing a number of players suffer injuries and suspensions, but they have the depth to make up for those absentees.
Sam Simmonds, the replacement for Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes, has been the form number eight in the Premiership, while they do not lack for quality wingers, despite Elliot Daly’s enforced withdrawal.
Although Italy appear an improved entity, having seen their sides produce much more competitive performances in Europe and the PRO14, they still have some way to go.
National team boss Conor O’Shea is the right man to take them forward but, as the former Harlequins’ head honcho has consistently conceded, there is still much work to be done on developing their academy system.
Several youngsters have made their way into the squad and, alongside stalwarts Sergio Parisse and Alessandro Zanni, it is an improved side from last year.
The Azzurri, however, will have to go some if they are to be competitive with the visitors. While O’Shea’s men will think they can catch last year’s winner cold, it is arguably their toughest home game of the competition and a poor start may see confidence deteriorate.
No doubt, that is what the Red Rose are aiming to inflict on the hosts. Jones is not only expecting a victory – having won every game against the Italians, that should be a given – the Australian is demanding a dominant performance from his charges.
The Red Rose have struggled to find their rhythm over the past year and their 2017 Six Nations opener with France was much tighter than they would have liked. England began slowly and, as a result, failed to garner much momentum throughout the opening three encounters of the previous competition
Jones’ side will therefore look to alter a run of subpar displays in this tournament, with the dismantling of Scotland their only satisfactory performance during the last campaign.
There are not too many weaknesses in the Twickenham outfit’s armoury, with a powerful pack, good decision-makers at half-back and pace on the outside, but those units have not always matched the individual quality on paper.
For example, the scrum, while often solid, has not been as dominant as England’s set-piece used to be, and it is an area Italy will think they can target. That appears to be the only facet of the game the hosts will be able to get on top, however, so expect the visitors to come away with a comfortable victory.
Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 George Biagi, 20 Maxime Mbanda’, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Jayden Hayward
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Danny Care, 22 Jonathan Joseph, 23 Jack Nowell