Stephen Ferris: Italy can defy handicap against England
Ladbrokes ambassador Stephen Ferris is looking at all three of this weekend’s second round of Six Nations games and here he gives his thoughts on Sunday’s clash between Italy and England.
Eddie Jones’ injury-hit England side went down to a 20-17 loss at Murrayfield last week but are 1/33 favourites to bounce back in Rome, while the Italians are 10/1.
Italy v England (Sunday, 15.00, ITV)
The head coach of England has been criticised from top to toe over the last week. They have lost to Scotland two years in a row, the first time that has happened since 1983, so of course Eddie Jones is going to come under the pump.
After a loss in your first game the perfect opposition in your second is Italy. You know you will get chances and more time on the ball, so for players like Marcus Smith and Henry Slade they will be licking their chops at the thought of this.
Twenty-four points in the handicap seems a little big considering away from home last year Italy lost by a margin of 23. England also had a much healthier team captained by Owen Farrell, and Italy were saying goodbye to yet another head coach.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 10, 2022
Will England crumble under the media pressure, which is ever mounting, or will they shut up a few of their critics and put in a good powerful shift?
England will look to get on top in the set-piece, force penalties and use their strength and physicality to wear down the Italians. And they will also aim to stem any of the early emotional energy from the Italian players and their partisan crowd.
Expect Italy to battle hard but fall short again. I am predicting England to win, of course, and either Luke-Cowan Dickie or Jamie George to score the first try – whoever starts at hooker.
A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. May the best team win.