England can’t be sure of the Six Nations title at the final whistle in Rome on Saturday afternoon - all they can do is win big and hope it’s enough, and winning big has come easily enough of late.
When Italy first joined the tournament England ran up some huge scores, but then for a few years in the middle there were some close calls. But the last seven meetings starting in 2014 have all been won by 20 points or more, an average scoreline of 45-12 and a total of 44 tries to ten.
Throw in the fact that the Azzurri have now lost 26 successive tournament matches and that coach Franco Smith is looking to build for the future and the ingredients are there for another sizeable win.
England will be frustrated not to have had a run-out against the Barbarians last week to shed any rust but this is not usually a fixture that requires them to be at their peak from the off.
Italy vs England Betting Odds
England are asked to give up a handicap in the low 30s, the highest they have been handed in Rome since the days of Sir Clive Woodward’s world-beaters in 2002. They easily covered that line in a World Cup in two meetings last year, a World Cup warm-up and a Six Nations clash, but the last two meetings in Rome have been almost bang on the line, England winning by 31 points on both occasions.
And while this Italy team does look slightly less convincing than the Sergio Parisse-led sides of recent years, it’s hard to argue that England look that much more clinical. But there’s pace and trickery in the backline and in the last three Rome meetings England have run in a total of 19 tries to just two.
Italy vs England Team News
England fly-half George Ford is injured so Owen Farrell wears the number 10 shirt rather than forming a 10-12 partnership with the Leicester pivot. It means there’s room in the backline for the creative talents of Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph.
Exeter lock Jonny Hill makes his debut for England but the rest of the pack is unchanged from the one that started the 2019 Rugby World Cup final.
Italy handed a debut to fly-half Paolo Garbisi against Ireland last week and he performed well with a try among his tally of 12 points.
Italy vs England Predictions
The handicap is tantalisingly set but if there is one factor above any other that would help England cover it’s Italy’s low scoring tally. They have been beaten to nil twice this year and their tally of 39 points is well below that of any of their rivals.
Italy have not topped a 15-point total in any of the five Six Nations meetings and look set to be stifled again.
Taking England at -31 in the handicap market looks to be the way to go in this one.
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Six Nations: Italy vs England Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I watch Italy vs England on TV or live stream?
ITV have full coverage of the game from 16:00.A
What are the odds on Italy winning?
What are the odds on England winning?
What time does Italy vs England start?
16:45 on Saturday, October 31.A