England v Italy
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England stunned after Twickenham defeat
England's Six Nations title defence made a disastrous start after Eddie Jones' side were stunned by Scotland. The pre-tournament favourites were humbled by their rivals as Scotland won 11-6 to claim their first victory at Twickenham in 38 years. It was a thoroughly deserved win with England flattered by the scoreline after a dire display.
The team's style of play was criticised during the Autumn Nations Cup and England were hammered for their one-dimensional gameplan which backfired against Scotland. England, who failed to make any clean line-breaks, barely threatened to score throughout the whole game and England appeared to miss George Ford's creativity with Owen Farrell starting at fly-half.
Jones has opted to bring Ford back into the side for the Italy match with Farrell reverting to inside centre as Ollie Lawrence is dropped. Mako Vunipola is fit to return to the team while Kyle Sinckler and Courtney Lawes also start. Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie is promoted to the team with Jamie George starting on the bench for England.
Italy's winless run continues
Italy's losing run continued last weekend after their thumping 50-10 defeat at home to France. Franco Smith's side were punished for making too many mistakes as France's lethal attack ran riot in Rome.
It was Italy's 28th consecutive loss in the Six Nations and there are no signs of this ending any time soon.
England have won every single game against Italy and it is impossible to make a case for the visitors despite the hosts' weaknesses which were exposed by Scotland. The last meeting saw England win 34-5 in Rome, while the most recent Twickenham clash resulted in a 57-14 victory two years ago with the gulf in class all too apparent.
The handicap mark is set at 37 points and this looks marginal. A confident England would be fancied to cover this but their misfiring attack does not inspire a huge amount of confidence in overcoming this significant handicap. Instead, preference at a bigger price is to back England to win by 31-40 points. The hosts should win comfortably enough and a small bet at 10/3 is recommended.
Hosts to make fast start
England will have been given a rocket by Jones for their desperate performance last week and a reaction is expected. While the team are unlikely to transform their gameplan, a fired-up England could race clear early on against Italy.
With this in mind, odds of 7/4 on the first half producing the most tries looks slightly generous as England are backed to respond with a fast start against Italy. England have a point to prove and it would be no surprise if they impose themselves early on and open up a significant lead.
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