Italy will host England on Sunday in Round 1 of the 2018 Six Nations, with the visitors being rated as 21.5 point spread favorites for this clash at Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Italy will try their best to put on a good showing in this year`s Six Nations and defend their honor, as they have been so poor in the last couple of seasons that discussions have sprung about their exclusion from the tournament. Unfortunately for the Italians there aren`t any signs of them doing better this year. They were poor overall in 2017 and ended the year on the same note in the Autumn Internationals, where they got a good 9 point win against Fiji, but were destroyed at home by both Argentina and South Africa – neither of those sides playing very well at that time.
England is hands down the second best team in the World right now, with many suggesting they could even beat the All Blacks, but that remains to be decided at the end of the year, when the two teams will clash. For the moment, The Three Lions will attempt to defend their Six Nations title, which they have won in the previous two years. Last time the English side got together was in the Autumn Internationals, when they won comfortably against Samoa, Argentina and Australia.Bet on Italy vs. England and claim your 100% (100 Eur) welcome bonus at Ohmbet!
Team news & lineups:
Both teams are dealing with some injuries to key players ahead of this clash. England misses more players, but you have to feel that Italy could actually suffer more, as they don`t have the depth that England has.
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
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
The English lineup for this clash misses a few big names like Billy Vunipola or Elliot Daly due to injury, but Italy is not quite at full strength either. England shouldn`t be affected too much given their amazing depth, but Italy might suffer from not having everybody available.
Italy is definitely not in a good spot, even if their club teams improved this season. That will give them a reason for optimism, but that improvement did not translate at all to the National team when Italy last got together in the Autumn Internationals.
There is clearly a massive gulf in class between the two sides, something which can also be seen in the recent H2H meetings. England won the last 4 meetings by 41, 30, 31 and 21 points, and two of them were in Rome.
The last meeting was last year at Twickenham when England actually struggled and only won by 21 points. However, that match had a special story, as Italy came up with some strange and effective tactics to bend the rules of rugby, and England was left clueless. The game was close for 60 minutes or so, but eventually England figured it out and piled up the points in the last quarter of an hour.
The Italians will hope that home court advantage will help them keep the score respectable, but playing at home wasn`t much of use for them recently. In last year`s Six Nations they played three home matches and lost by 22 to France, by 53 to Ireland and by 26 to Wales. Not to mention that in the recent year-end Internationals they were destroyed in Rome by Argentina (by 16) and South Africa (by 29).
Italy actually lost by less than 21,5 points (which is the point spread today) just once in their last 9 Six Nations matches, when Scotland beat them by 16 points in 2016.
England has plenty of reason to force a big win here. They absolutely want the bonus point, which could prove crucial in what should be a close tournament. Also, a large margin of victory could help them if the title ends up being decided via points difference – which is a possibility.
Not lastly, the English will surely want to punish Italy after the Azzurri approached their meeting last year with some unconventional tactics to avoid the offside rule. England struggled against those tactics, and many fans felt that the Italians were disrespectful. It was such a big confusion and controversy that World Rugby eventually had to make some tweaks in the rules, in order to avoid something like that happening again.
A motivated England should run the Italians ragged here. There`s really not much to suggest Italy could have a decent tournament and there`s not much to suggest they could keep this within 20 points, so my tip will be England to cover the 21,5 point handicap (which is currently slowly moving towards 22,5).
I reckon my analysis suggests max stakes are warranted here, so I will back the visitors with 10 units. I can see England winning this by 30 points or so. Prediction: Italy – England 11 – 44.