We take a look at six key elements every England fan will be keen to see when their side take on Italy in the Six Nations this weekend…
1.Young players being given a chance
Unfortunately it already looks like Elliot Daly won’t be making his debut against Italy having been released back to Wasps, but with the likes of Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford, Jamie George and Josh Beaumont still involved in the travelling squad, it is an ideal opportunity for some or all of these to start their first international, or at least get some time off the bench.
2.Forwards getting over the gain line
Against Scotland, Billy Vunipola was the only member of the pack to carry the ball for any significant gain. In fact, the forwards were so poor in this area, Sergio Parisse single handedly carried for more metres than the whole English pack, including replacements. This week, it is vital the English pack steps up and gets over the gain line to give the backs some goo ball to play with.
3.Making a decent competition of the breakdown
Unfortunately it looks like fans wish of having a genuine openside in the team aren’t likely to happen anytime soon given Matt Kvesic has been released back to Gloucester, so it’s vital England show their work with George Smith is paying off. It would be nice to see some progress in the back row, with players making a competition of the breakdown, and even winning turnovers.
4.The backs getting the ball out wide
It was a shame to see the likes of Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell seeing relatively little ball whilst out on their wings. We already know what they are capable of doing with a little bit of space, so this week it would be really interesting to see just how much damage they can potentially inflict on Italy if they get their hands on the ball out wide.
5.Set piece dominance
England’s scrum looked to have improved at least slightly against Scotland last week, whilst the lineout also returned as a source of quality ball for the most part. It is therefore vital that England build upon this and ensure that the set piece once again becomes one of their strengths and isn’t exposed like it was during the World Cup last year.
6.Tries…lots, and lots of tries
Ok, this is maybe a little optimistic, but there’s no reason why England can’t rack up a decent points haul this weekend. Italy didn’t exactly look solid in defence last week against a wretched French side, so if the forwards can deliver a solid platform there is no reason England can’t put last year’s disappointing result against the Italians to bed with a decent scoreline.