Fri 12 Feb 2016 | 08:01

Preview: Italy v England

Preview: Italy v England
Fri 12 Feb 2016 | 08:01

Preview: Italy v England


England's failure to get past the World Cup group stages prompted a change in management and philosophy that saw the Red Rose begin this year's Six Nations with a battling 15-9 win over Scotland last week.

Although Vunipola was widely applauded after that victory, the 23-year-old credits new coach Eddie Jones with instilling a new, more sociable approach to rebuilding England's confidence. Vunipola says England are benefiting from being allowed to socialise more than under the previous regime run by Stuart Lancaster, when players were told not to drink.

"I respond to the love and compassion Eddie shows the boys, me especially. He is very personable. We have had a few bonding sessions. It's important for me to know what someone else is about, what motivates them, whether that be their family or scoring tries.

"It works better when you have a relationship with someone rather than just rocking up and playing for England," Vunipola said.

Australian Jones is expected to reshuffle England's pack for the visit to the Eternal City after releasing Gloucester flank Matt Kvesic and Wasps centre Elliot Daly from his training squad earlier this week. At the same time, he included Saracens flank Maro Itoje and fellow back row forward Josh Beaumont of Sale.

Jones hinted England may require greater speed up front, which could open the door to Harlequins back row forward Jack Clifford, who made his debut from the bench at Murrayfield.

"The playing conditions will be considerably different. They will be warmer, a faster pitch, different referee so I am anticipating we will be able to get our attack going a lot quicker than we did against Scotland.

"I've said it's going to be a faster game so we could pick a faster pack," said Jones.

Come Sunday afternoon, England's thoughts will be focused on how to beat a promising-looking Italian side. Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made only two changes from the side that gave France a scare in a 21-23 defeat at the Stade de France last week.

Wing Andrea Buondonno will replace David Odiete, who suffered a left ankle sprain, while flank Robert Barbieri comes in for wing Leonardo Sarto, who is still out with a muscle problem. A decision will be taken on George Biagi, depending on his recovery from a muscular injury.

One of Italy's big surprises last week was young flyhalf Carlo Canna, who on his tournament debut scored one of Italy's two tries, made the conversion and finished the game with a penalty and a drop goal to his name as the Azzurri came close to causing an upset.

It prompted praise from Jones.

"It's nice to receive compliments but maybe the tactic of [Eddie] Jones is to put me under pressure ahead of Sunday's match. More than the points I scored or the compliments I received, I'm thinking about the two kicks and the penalty I missed – in my position, that's unacceptable," Canna said.

Canna expects a completely different team to show up, and has called on Italy to make the necessary adjustments to stop Jones' men in their tracks.

"The France game is over, we paid a small price for our inexperience and that made the difference to the final score. Now we're working hard to give England some food for thought. We're facing a totally different team from last week – one that, in the first two phases, we'll try to use the pack to push the team forward and open up the game.

"We have to be solid in the tackles, much more than we were against France," he added.

Players to watch:

For Italy: Sergio Parisse keeps on proving why he is one of the best players in the world while young Carlo Canna showed plenty of character in his debut game.

For England: Anthony Watson and Mike Brown gives England plenty of spark and pace in the backline and will be looking to exploit the holes in Italy's defence. It will be interesting to see if Billy Vunipola will be able to continue his current run of form while the world will be watching to see if Dylan Hartley can keep his temper under control.

Head to head: The showdown between Billy Vunipola and Sergio Parisse will be worth watching as two of the best go at it to assert dominance. The youthful exuberance of Carlo Canna will once again be tested as he looks to get the better of George Ford while Ornel Gega will certainly look to ruffle Dylan Hartley's feathers at scrum time and in the contact areas.

Recent results:

2015: England won 17-47, London
2014: England won 11-52, Rome
2013: England won 11-18, London
2012: England won 15-19, Rome
2011: England won 13-59, London
2010: England won 12-17, Rome
2009: England won 11-36, London
2008: England won 19-23, Rome
2007: England won 7-20, London
2006: England won 16-31, Rome

Prediction: Italy will certainly have gained confidence from their narrow loss to France in Round One and would be out to hand Eddie Jones his first defeat as England's head coach. England, on the other hand, will want to continue their rebuilding process with a commanding win, which is why England should take this by 10 points.

The teams:

Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 George Fabio Biagi, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Valerio Bernabo, 20 Andries van Schalkwyk, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Edoardo Padovani, 23 Andrea Pratichetti.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Maro Itoje, 21 Jack Clifford, 22 Danny Care, 23 Alex Goode.

Date: Sunday, February 14
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Predicted weather: Partly cloudy with scattered showers. Low of 11, high of 16
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

PV: 2
Preview: Italy V England | Rugby365