England bid to bounce back against improving Italy – Six Nations talking points

Sign up to our free sport newsletter for all the latest news on everything from cycling to boxing

Sign up to our free sport email for all the latest news

Thanks for signing up to the
Sport email

England are looking to bounce back from their defeat by Scotland in round one when their Guinness Six Nations continues against Italy on Sunday.

Here we examine five talking points heading into the Twickenham showdown.

Slade’s value to England

Henry Slade’s role as gatekeeper to England’s midfield became apparent as Steve Borthwick explained the thinking behind his new look trio. It is the availability of Slade after missing the defeat to Scotland because of a groin injury that has unlocked the door for Owen Farrell to start at fly-half instead of Marcus Smith, with Ollie Lawrence providing Borthwick’s preferred ball-carrying option at inside centre. Making it possible are the playmaking and running skills provided by Slade at 13 in a clear indication that the classy Exeter man will be a key cog in Borthwick’s England.

Farrell the ringmaster


Pundits far and wide began stating the obvious early in the Smith-Farrell experiment – as a creative partnership it does not work. After eight consecutive Tests when the duo have pulled England’s strings in tandem, Farrell is given the opportunity to prove why the 10 jersey should be his alone. At Saracens he is producing some of the finest form of his career, enhanced by his increased threat with the ball in hand. He will be the lynchpin of the balanced midfield England have lacked and against Italy he has the opportunity to take ownership of his preferred role for the foreseeable future.

Jack’s back

It was in the same fixture two years ago that Jack Willis’ cries of pain pierced the silence at an empty Twickenham after he was rolled out of a ruck by Sebastian Negri, horribly contorting his knee in an injury that forced him out for a year. Further visits to the treatment room and the financial collapse of his former club Wasps, forcing him to join Toulouse, have made it a hard road back for the 26-year-old breakdown menace but he is now ready to make his first England start since that fateful day against Italy, who retain Negri in their back row.

Italy on the rise

Negri was full of remorse for the act known as a ‘crocodile roll’ that took place in a typically lopsided defeat for his side, but fast forward two years and he is part of a resurgent Italy who for the first time since entering the Six Nations could challenge England’s 29-0 record in the fixture. A 36-match losing streak in the Championship led to calls for relegation to be introduced, but a stunning victory over Wales in Cardiff last year provided a vital shot in the arm. Having toppled Australia in the autumn and pushed France to the wire last Sunday, they arrive at Twickenham scenting blood.

You can’t miss tackles, guys

With the likes of Ange Capuozzo and Edoardo Padovani providing Italy with genuine threats, England must address the defensive shortcomings evident in the 29-23 Calcutta Cup defeat. Scotland scored four tries and while the first of Duhan van der Merwe’s double was a classic, it was also the result of a system error and poor individual play. Defence coach Kevin Sinfield has taken umbrage at all four scores and been drilling a simple message into his players since – “You can’t miss tackles guys. You just can’t”.

Source: Read Full Article