Italy visit gives England ideal chance to drop Ashton in Six Nations
The common statement of never changing a winning team was rightfully ignored by Stuart Lancaster in England’s victory over France and there are reasons to believe that the Six Nations squad will be rotated again for the home clash with Italy.
Italy may have improved in this tournament, but that has not stopped England being installed as 1/100 favourites.
This is not only because England sit atop this year’s Six Nations standings, but are also unbeaten in all 17 competitive meetings with Italy, dating back to their first encounter in 1991.
England to win giving up a 23-point start may be the best value at 8/11, which is a handicap they have overcome in five of their six Six Nations clashes with Italy at Twickenham.
Whether Lancaster’s men do triumph by such a margin may be determined by his team selection and this may be the right time to drop Chris Ashton, having only contributed two tries in 15 games.
Given that Lancaster started out by picking players based on form over reputation, Ashton arguably deserves to be replaced and England are in a position where they can experiment slightly.
David Strettle has had chances for England before, but according to Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall, the winger is currently producing his best form in three seasons.
Tom Varndell is the top tryscorer in the Aviva Premiership this season and therefore he can do no more to impress Lancaster.
The one big question mark about him is in defence and whether he is more readily disposed than other options.
Charlie Sharples is another who is slightly suspect in defence, but would be a natural fit on the right wing, while it has been mentioned that Manu Tuilagi could be pushed wide from centre.
However, this may prove an imprudent move, as England should learn their lesson from France, who have wasted Wesley Fofana by playing him out wide rather than in his deadliest position of centre.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.