Rugby U


Afternoon. Round one of the six nations finishes today, with the two-time defending champions facing the two-time defending wooden spoon holders.

England are starting their campaign for an unprecedented third consecutive title against an Italy side winless in the tournament since 2015. Italy's no-ruck tactics caused England no end of confusion in this fixture last year, but you'd be brave to predict anything other than a thumping England win today.

Injury-hit England have been forced into a few changes, with Ben Te'o returning to the team almost a year since his last appearance. Exeter player Sam Simmonds also gets a start at number 8 for the first time.

Italy have three players making their debut today - Matteo Minozzi, Sebastian Negri and Renato Giammarioli. Alessandro Zanni returns to the team after an almost two year absence to win his 100th cap.

Italy: Minozzi; Benvenuti, Boni, Castello, Bellini; Allan, Violi; Lovotti, Ghiraldini, Ferrari, Zanni, Budd, Negri, Giammarioli, Parisse Replacements: Bigi, Quaglio, Pasquali, Biagi, Mbanda, Gori, Canna, Hayward

England: Brown; Watson, Te'o, Farrell, May; Ford, B Youngs; M Vunipola, Hartley, Cole, Launchbury, Itoje, Lawes, Robshaw, Simmonds Replacements: George, Hepburn, Williams, Kruis, Underhill, Care, Joseph, Nowell

Italy are on an ugly run of losing 11 of their last 12 tests, and their last 13 at home. England, on the other hand, are on a 5 match winning streak, and still have only one defeat since the catastrophe that was the 2015 World Cup.

Wonder if Italy have any tricks up their sleeve, having unsettled England with their refusal to form rucks last year. Either way, it's hard to see them winning or coming anywhere close to winning this match. Your predictions? I'm going for a bonus point England win by 30 points.

Anthems done and the players are ready. Referee Mathieu Raynal will get us under way any minute now.

2' Off we go then, and Italy take the kickoff cleanly on their own 10m line. A clearing kick goes up, and is recovered by Italy. They can't do much with it though, and will go back for a scrum after Mike Brown knocked on challenging for the high ball.