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Italy v England - teams and prediction

ROUND ONE PREVIEW: Jamie George and Gonzalo Quesada are hoping to lead England and Italy into new eras as the countries face off in Saturday’s Six Nations opener in Rome.

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George will skipper England for the first time after Owen Farrell decided to skip this year’s edition for the sake of his mental health.

The hooker will lead out a young team with five new faces in Steve Borthwick’s 23-man matchday squad as England try to win the Six Nations for the first time in four years.

“I’ve tried not to think about it too much. It’s going to be an emotional day. I’m quite an emotional person anyway,” George told reporters ahead of the opener in Rome.

“I’ve got some family flying over, some who aren’t able to fly, so to be able to put a smile [on the faces] of my family back home is going to mean a lot.

“The obvious statement is that it’s a dream come true. I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself for moments like that so I want to be in the moment as much as I can.”

George said he wants to help the new boys, including centre Fraser Dingwall who will start his first-ever Test match, to enjoy the novelty of international rugby and not let it all fly by.

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“Similar messages to the guys having their first cap, because that was the best piece of advice I got before my first cap. It goes like that,” added George, clicking his fingers.

Saturday’s match should, in theory, be relatively simple for England who have never lost to Italy, but the Red Rose have not won an opening match in a Six Nations campaign since 2019.

Head coach Borthwick is trying to build on England’s third-place finish at last year’s World Cup and push the pre-tournament favourites France and Ireland.

“I talk to the players a lot about the mindset and intensity we need to bring to this,” Borthwick told reporters.

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“Because that has to be different to what’s happened at the start of previous Six Nations tournaments. So I am certainly looking for that.”

Quesada begins his reign as Italy coach with a huge test after only a few weeks with his new team, one which was largely developed by his predecessor Kieran Crowley.

At last month’s Six Nations launch in Dublin former Argentina flyhalf Quesada said that he has “a lot of respect for stuff that has been done before” under Crowley. His team for the England game reflects that.

The Azzurri were mauled by France and New Zealand at the World Cup and lost all five matches in last year’s Six Nations, but have at times looked capable of dishing out a bloody nose.

“We know that England will put us under lots of pressure. Not everything we do will be perfect due to the small amount of time we’ve had together, but the preparation for the match has been good,” Quesada told reporters on Thursday.

“What is certain is that we will see an Italian team with an extraordinary amount of will, passion and desire to do well.”

Players to watch:

For Italy: Playmaker Tommaso Allan is at fullback, while the lethal Australian-born Monty Ioane complete the dangerous back three. The Garbisi brothers Paolo and Alessandro at scrumhalf and flyhalf have the responsibility to dictate and set the tone of the match. In the pack, Sebastian Negri is a workhorse at flank. He partners with captain Michele Lamaro and Lorenzo Cannone as the loose trio.

For England: With Owen Farrell ruling himself out of the Six Nations, Steve Borthwick has opted to hand the captain’s armband to Jamie George. The hooker has a huge responsibility leading a much-changed England team. Lucky for him he has vice-captain Maro Itoje to lean on. Ben Earl, who was one of the standouts at the World Cup, will be eager to continue his great international form. In the backline, Goerge Ford takes the pivotal role. He may not be a flashy runner but his goal-kicking can punish you. Freddie Steward is another who can cause havoc with his runs from the back. He is also incredible under the highball.

Prediction

@rugby365com: England by 10 points

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Italy v England - teams and prediction

 

Teams: 

Italy: 15 Tommaso Allan, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Alessandro Garbisi, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Andrea Zambonin, 20 Edoardo Iachizzi, 21 Manuel Zuliani, 22 Stephen Varney, 23 Federico Mori.

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ethan Roots, 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jamie George (captain), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Chandler Cunningham-South, 21 Danny Care, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.

Date: Saturday, February 3
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 15.15 (14.15 UK & Ireland time; 14.15 GMT)
Expected weather: Mainly sunny, with a high of 17°C
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)

 

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