2018 Six Nations: Italy v England Preview

Players attempt to score a try

Italy and England will lock horns in the final fixture of Round 1 of the 2018 Six Nations when they clash at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday the 4th of February.

Eddie Jones' England will be looking for a fast start to their Six Nations title defence when they take on the Italians this Sunday. The hosts endured a horrid 2017 Six Nations campaign losing all six of their fixtures. The Italians did frustrate the English when the two sides met in last year's tournament, with the Azzurri refusing to create rucks, which ensured there was no offside line at the breakdown, much to the bemusement of the English brains trust.

Italy v England | Sunday 4 February | Stadio Olimpico | 17:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Italy 12/1
Draw 33/1
England 1/50
Italy (+22.5) 9/10
England (-22.5) 9/10

2017 was supposed to be the year the Italians kicked on under Irish coach Connor O'Shea. A late-November 2016 victory over South Africans at this weekend's venue was meant to be the catalyst for the Italians but it proved to be more of a false dawn with the Azzurri enduring a pathetic twelve months that saw them pick up fewer wins than Georgia, who are now being touted by some pundits to replace Italy in the Six Nations.

While the Italians did muster up a few victories last year, arguably the Azurri's finest hour came against this weekend's opponents at Twickenham. A masterstroke of law manipulation by the Italian brains trust saw the take the breakdown out of the game, which allowed them to essentially take the English forwards out of the game. Connor 'O Shea will need to have something similar up his sleeve this coming weekend if his side is to be as competitive against the English as they were last season.

The English come into Sunday's fixture as red-hot favourites with the 'books and are currently available at a miserly 1/50 for a win. They've also been handed a rather large handicap to clear, which currently stands at the 22.5 mark.

Now to say Eddie Jones is a proud man is a massive understatement. Th current England mentor has an ego the size of a small country, and you can bet your bottom Dollar that he is still smarting from being outsmarted by Connor 'O Shea last year. As such, Jones will be intent on embarrassing his adversary this coming weekend. Which means he'll be sending his somewhat depleted English side on a mission to rack up as many points as possible at the Stadio Olimpico.

I say that Jones' side is somewhat depleted as he's missing two key men in the form of Saracens number eight, Billy Vunipoala, and Wasps utility back Elliot Daily. Vunipoala's ball carrying ability will be sorely missed by the English pack while Elliot Daily's dexterity is a massive loss for the back division.

Verdict: Italy (+22.5) 9/10
This isn't going to be a very popular tip amongst punters but it must be remembered that the English tend to start the Six Nations rather slowly and then burst into life. I will be having a very small play on the Italian plus due to the aforementioned fact.

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net

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