England kick off the defence of their Six Nations’ crown with a trip to Rome to face Italy on the opening weekend.
The two team’s priorities couldn’t be more different with Eddie Jones’ England going for a Grand Slam. While on the other hand, Conor O’Shea’s Italy will be looking for anything other than five losses from five games.
That’s not to suggest that the Azzurri are whipping boys coming into this tournament. It’s just that the disparity in quality and depth of squads is huge.
England are 1/20 to win in the outright market, with Italy huge underdogs at 18/1. It’s difficult to know how Jones’ men will begin this tournament.
The Red Rose tend to get off to sluggish starts before motoring later in the competition. However, they’ve never lost to Italy in 23 attempts and that’s highly unlikely to change here.
Can England beat the handicap set at +/-21? They have played the Azzurri nine times in the Six Nations in Rome.
And they’ve breached that handicap on five occasions, most recently under Jones in 2016 by a score of 9-40. You’d have to fancy them to do so again here at Even-Money.
To beat Italy well, you have to front-up, scrimmage well, and make sure your pack dominates. Thankfully, England are blessed in that department.
Maro Itoje is vital to Jones’ game plan. The Saracens lock forward is one of the best players in the world and will be key to beating the Azzurri here.
If the likes of Itoje, Mako Vuniopla, and Dylan Hartley have any sort of good day, Italy are as good as done for.
It’ll let a backline containing the likes of Jonathan Joseph, Mike Brown, and Jonny May loose to create havoc.
How big a win this will be will depend on how quickly England’s pack can get a grip on the game.
England to win by a margin of 21-30 points definitely appeals at 11/4.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication