Italy v England: Prediction and Teams
SIX NATIONS, ROUND FIVE: England coach Eddie Jones has urged his players to revive Rugby Union’s reputation when they bid for the Six Nations Championship title away to Italy following the “laughing stock” of last week’s cancelled match against the Barbarians.
Jones’s losing World Cup finalists could be crowned champions with a big win over perennial strugglers Italy in Rome and if the result of a match between title rivals France and Ireland later on Saturday’s coronavirus-delayed final round of the tournament goes their way.
England, without a match for months, had hoped to prepare by playing the invitational Barbarians side at Twickenham last Sunday.
But that fixture was dramatically scrapped when it emerged several BaaBaas players, including former England captain Chris Robshaw, had breached COVID-19 protocols by making unauthorised trips, including a restaurant meal, outside the ‘bubble’ at the squad’s London hotel.
Jones initially appeared relaxed about the abandonment, urging rugby fans not to be too harsh on flank Robshaw, a “good young man” who has “served his country well”.
But Jones, speaking just hours before the RFU charged 13 unnamed Barbarians players on Thursday with “prejudicial” conduct, took a far less conciliatory tone.
“Rugby at the moment is a bit of a laughing stock and we all love the game,” the veteran Australian coach told a conference call.
“We have a great game in rugby and we don’t like to see it be portrayed as something that is not a serious sport, as it has been.”
Jones, who has previously coached the Barbarians, as well as his native Australia and Japan, added: “No-one likes to see a game called off because of a breakdown in the protocols in society at the moment. That’s what happened.”
Nevertheless, he cited how the Australian cricket team had recovered from the shame of a 2018 ball-tampering scandal in South Africa as proof of how a sporting reputation could be restored.
“History shows that sport changes quickly,” Jones said. “If you look at the situation with the Australian cricket team and the sandpaper, that time was not a great
time for cricket and it was not a great time for Australian cricket.
“Now people have forgotten that and it is our responsibility to put on a performance so that people don’t remember what happened from a couple of weeks ago.”
Jones, a lifelong cricket fan, stuck with the summer game when explaining why he had no qualms about deploying Henry Slade in his starting XV, with the Exeter centre aiming for his third trophy in as many weeks after helping the double-winning Chiefs win gruelling European and English Premiership finals.
“It’s like a batsman, you score a hundred in one game, a hundred in the next and the coach comes in and says, ‘we’re going to sit you out next game’,” Jones explained.
“And he looks at you as if you’ve got two heads. Why would you want to be left out when you’re in good form?… He [Slade] wants to play, he loves playing for England.”
Players to watch
For Italy: Matteo Minozzi comes in for Jayden Hayward at fullback this week and will bring something different to Italy’s attack. The 20-year-old flyhalf Paolo Garbisi scored 12 of Italy’s 17 points on his debut against the Irish. He looked promising on attack and could cause the English some problems in Rome. Jake Polledri, Braam Steyn and Sebastian Negri make up a dynamic loose trio and they will be out to disrupt England’s ball.
For England: Jonny Hill will make his England debut at lock and his partnership with Maro Itoje will be under the spotlight. After winning the Premiership and Champions Cup with Exeter Chiefs, centre Henry Slade will now want to hold onto a starting place in the England team. At fullback, George Furbank might not be everyone’s first pick in that position, but Eddie Jones sees something in him.
Head to head
After coming up against Johnny Sexton last weekend, Italy’s young flyhalf Paolo Garbisi will have another opportunity against one of the best in the business in the form of Owen Farrell. There is plenty of talent in the back-rows this weekend and Braam Steyn and Sebastian Negri will have to work hard at the breakdowns to combat Sam Underhill and Tom Curry.
@rugby365com: England by 20 points or more.
Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Eduardo Padovani, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Jake Polledri, 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Niccolo Cannone, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Giosue Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Danillo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Simone Ferrari, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Dave Sisi, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Maxime Mbanda, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Federico Mori.
England: 15 George Furbank, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Ollie Lawrence, 23 Ollie Thorley.
Date: Saturday, October 31
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 18.45 (16.45 UK time & GMT)
Expected weather: It will be sunny with a high of 22°C and a low of 10°C. Winds will be light and variable.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Alex Ruiz (France), Mike Adamson (Scotland)
TMO: Romain Poite (France)
AFP & @rugby365com