Six Nations Rugby: England Look To Dominate Italy Despite Losing Andrew Sheridan
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After their exciting victory over Wales, England begin a run of three home matches with a game against an Italian side who will themselves be confident after coming within an ace of beating Ireland last weekend.
Despite the various problems that they encountered against the Welsh last Friday—lack of power in the scrum, Louis Deacon's senseless yellow card, Chris Ashton's showboating—England name an unchanged side for this game.
England were overpowered in the early scrums in Cardiff and their problems have not been helped by the loss of Andrew Sheridan to a back injury. Against that, Tom Palmer had arguably his best game in an England shirt, whilst Tom Wood's debut at blindside was assured and effective.
The return of Hendre Fourie to the bench gives them increased options, especially with James Haskell operating in an unfamiliar role at openside.
Shontayne Hape is a lucky man. Against Wales, he practically wrote himself into the dictionary:
Hape (v): To consistently be in the wrong place at the wrong time
If England had another realistic option to play inside Mike Tindall, then you can be sure that they would take it. Similarly, Tindall looked slow and laboured, leading to the suspicion that he is only in this side for his experience and leadership, and that once Lewis Moody returns to take over the captaincy, Tindall will be gone.
Italy were cruelly denied a first win over Ireland at the weekend and will be hoping to turn the tables on England for the first time instead. They came close last year, losing 17-12 in a game which spelled the beginning of the end for Steve Borthwick's reign as England captain.
However, they have been weakened by injuries for this game and the odds must therefore be stacked against them.
The loss of Josh Sole could prove vital for the Italians. Never an outstanding player, Sole has formed a solid back-row partnership with Sergio Parisse and Alessandro Zanni which was more than the sum of its parts.
Carlo del Fava earns a recall in the second row to form a South African-born pairing with Quintin Geldenhuys.
Expect to see a change at scrum half. Edoardo Gori is injured, but fortunately there will be no repeat of their last visit to Twickenham, where Mauro Bergamasco inexplicably was selected at No. 9 and had a nightmare.
Despite their performance against Ireland, the back division lacks class and will be in for a tough afternoon.
Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost
Expect something of a forward battle. The true strength of both sides lies in their packs, but it will be England who will look to move the ball wide and use the size of Tindall and Chris Ashton against the Italian midfield.
England win, but only after some dogged Italian resistance.
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