Italy To Keep England Close At Twickenham
England v Italy
The Azzuri travel to Twickenham off the back of a 28-3 loss to Ireland but will retain hopes of keeping the scores close against England.
2014 was a bruising year for Stuart Lancaster’s men, in which they once again fell short in the 6 Nations, and were beaten four times by the All-Blacks. But they ended their autumn internationals with a moral-boosting success against Australia, and kicked off World Cup year with a heroic 21-16 victory in Cardiff, despite fielding an inexperienced line-up including five debutants.
Playing well without having anything to show for it was the story of Italy’s 2014, as they battled hard in the 6 Nations and ended the year with creditable but losing performance against Argentina and South Africa. This year’s 6 Nations campaign already has a familiar look to it, as another brave effort, built around some stirring defence, was not enough to keep Ireland at bay in Rome last weekend.
England’s 6 Nations plans were thrown into chaos by a clutch of last minute injuries. Last week’s starting fifteen against Wales was missing as many as twelve first choice players, which meant the whole side, particularly in the pack, had a makeshift look to it. But their success means that although Kyle Eastmond, Brad Barritt and Geoff Parling may be fit again this week, Lancaster could go with an unchanged side.
Italy are still without second row Quintin Geldenhuys, who is struggling with a knee ligament problem and missed the opener against Ireland, and a couple more Italians were added to the absent list after Saturday. Centre Michel Campagnaro suffered a knee injury and will miss the rest of the tournament, and veteran back row Alessandro Zanni will be out for the trip to Twickenham with a cruciate ligament tear.
Head to Head
The head to head record between these teams is stark. England have played Italy on twenty occasions and have won them all.
Until last year, there were signs that the Italians were getting closer.
Their previous eight defeats against England had been by an average of 14.88 points and in their previous two, in 2012 and 2013, they had lost by four and seven points respectively.
But that improving record was mainly built on performances at the Stadio Olimpico, where the Italians are much stronger. It has been a different story on English soil, where last year’s 51-11 thrashing, in which England ran in seven tries is more typical.
Italy have conceded 172 points in their last five visits to Twickenham and lost all five by an average margin of 24.5 points.
After their titanic battle in Cardiff, England’s inexperienced side face a different challenge: how to break down stubborn opponents at Twickenham. They should be too strong for the Italians, but I think the handicap market underestimates the visitors and if they show the same resilience they offered against Ireland, they can keep the score respectable. Back Italy +28 at 10/11 in the Match Handicap market.