Eddie Jones’ side have not played at all since their 33-30 triumph over Wales in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with an annual Quilter Cup match against the Barbarians at Twickenham last weekend cancelled 48 hours before kick-off due to breaches of Covid-19 regulations by several members of the Baa-Baas squad.
England head to Rome looking to secure the convincing victory necessary to pile pressure on Ireland ahead of the table-toppers’ clash against France, with the two games kicking off three hours and 20 minutes apart on ‘Super Saturday’.
The full list of permutations is quite convoluted with France also still able to claim glory, but suffice to say that Jones’ men can do little more in pursuit of a first Six Nations title since 2017 than produce an emphatic bonus-point win at the Stadio Olimpico and hope that things go their way in Paris later on in the evening.
Italy, meanwhile, were thrashed 50-17 in Dublin last weekend, have not won a Six Nations contest for five years and are once again guaranteed to finish bottom of the pile as questions continue to be asked over their ongoing participation in the competition.
Date, time and venue
Italy vs England is scheduled for a 4:45pm GMT kick-off on Saturday, October 31, 2020.
The match is being played behind closed doors at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome due to Government guidelines regarding coronavirus.
How to watch
TV channel: Italy vs England is being shown live on ITV, with coverage due to get under way at 4pm.
Live stream: Fans can also watch the contest online via the ITV Hub and ITV website.
Exeter lock Jonny Hill will be handed his England debut in the second row as Jones makes seven changes to the side that beat Wales seven months ago.
Owen Farrell moves to fly-half with George Ford unavailable and Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph partnered in the centres, while Vunipola brothers Mako and Billy are both back along with full-back George Furbank and flanker Sam Underhill.
England are missing six of the squad that faced Wales through injury, including talismanic centre Manu Tuilagi, while the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell are also out and George Kruis is ineligible for selection after moving to Japan.
Jones has opted for five forwards and three backs on the bench, with three more prospective debutants featuring in Bath hooker Tom Dunn, Worcester centre Ollie Lawrence and Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley.
Scrum-half Ben Youngs will become only the second player after Jason Leonard to win a century of caps for England, while Saracens hooker Jamie George is set to make his 50th senior international appearance.
As for Italy, the only alteration made by head coach Franco Smith following that heavy defeat by Ireland sees Wasps full-back Matteo Minozzi replace Jayden Hayward at 15.
On the bench, scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani is preferred to Callum Braley.
Italy: 15. Matteo Minozzi (Wasps), 14. Edoardo Padovani (Benetton Rugby), 13. Luca Morisi (Benetton Rugby), 12. Carlo Canna (Zebre), 11. Mattia Bellini (Zebre), 10. Paolo Garbisi (Benetton), 9. Marcello Violi (Zebre), 1. Danilo Fischetti (Zebre), 2. Luca Bigi (Zebre), 3. Giosuè Zilocchi (Zebre), 4. Marco Lazzaroni (Benetton), 5. Niccolò Cannone (Benetton), 6. Sebastian Negri (Benetton), 7. Braam Steyn (Benetton), 8. Jake Polledri (Gloucester)
Replacements: 16. Gianmarco Lucchesi (Benetton), 17. Simone Ferrari (Benetton), 18. Pietro Ceccarelli (Brive), 19. David Sisi (Zebre), 20. Johan Meyer (Zebre), 21. Maxime Mbanda (Zebre), 22. Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre), 23. Federico Mori (Kawasaki Robot Cavisano)
England: 15. George Furbank (Northampton Saints), 14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), 13. Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), 12. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), 11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), 10. Owen Farrell (Saracens), 9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers), 1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens), 2. Jamie George (Saracens) 3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears), 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens), 5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs), 6. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), 7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), 8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Replacements: 16. Tom Dunn, (Bath Rugby), 17. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), 18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby), 19. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby), 20. Ben Earl (Bristol Bears), 21. Dan Robson (Wasps), 22. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors), 23. Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby)
Head to head (h2h) history and results
England have won all 26 of their previous meetings against Italy, including a 37-0 thrashing in Newcastle in the build-up to last year’s World Cup.
The Red Rose normally run up the points against the Azzurri, scoring 1,058 in those contests and conceding just 319 in reply.
Betting odds and tips
- Italy to win: 49/1
- England to win: 1/50
- Draw: 149/1
- Jonny May first try: 6/1
Odds courtesy of Betfair.
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