HomeCricketItaly v England - preview, stats & BBC coverage

Italy v England – preview, stats & BBC coverage


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England head coach Steve Borthwick must do without former captain Owen Farrell (left), who has taken a break from international rugby
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Saturday, 3 February Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 live from 14:00 GMT; text commentary and match highlights on BBC Sport website and app; watch live on ITV1.

After failing to win their opening game in each of the past four Six Nations, England will be desperate to leave Rome with a victory and a bonus point.

Italy are seemingly ideal opposition, with England having won all 30 previous encounters.

However, head coach Steve Borthwick has been beset by a slew of selection issues since masterminding their run to third place at last year’s World Cup.

The loss of Marcus Smith to a calf injury this week compounded matters.

Borthwick also lost replacement prop Ellis Genge to a foot injury before kick off, with Beno Obano stepping in to take his place on the bench.

England have posted an identical record of two wins and three defeats in the past three Six Nations, which has led to disappointing fifth, third and fourth-placed finishes.

Italy’s results have made for even grimmer reading. They have finished bottom in eight successive championships and have won just one of their last 42 Six Nations matches.

New coach Gonzalo Quesada has his work cut out to quell the annual calls from their critics for the Azzurri to be removed from the tournament.

Team news

Italy: Alessandro Garbisi is included at scrum-half alongside his brother Paolo at number 10. Tommaso Allan is picked at full-back and Tommaso Menoncello returns at centre, having missed the World Cup through injury.

Ange Capuozzo was ruled out on Friday because of illness and is replaced by Lorenzo Pani on the wing.

In the pack, Gianmarco Lucchesi is back after missing all of Italy’s internationals in 2023 with a knee injury, while lock Federico Ruzza wins his 50th cap.

England: Blind-side flanker Ethan Roots and inside centre Fraser Dingwall make their Test debuts, while the uncapped trio of back row Chandler Cunningham-South, fly-half Fin Smith and winger Immanuel Feyi-Waboso are on the bench.

Marcus Smith was set to replace the absent Owen Farrell but has been ruled out because of a calf injury for at least two matches, so fly-half George Ford wins his 92nd cap.

In addition to Genge, Borthwick is without backs Ollie Lawrence, Manu Tuilagi and Anthony Watson and forwards Tom Curry, Luke Cowan-Dickie, George Martin and Bevan Rodd because of injury.

Henry Arundell, Joe Marchant, David Ribbans and Jack Willis are no longer eligible as they play in France.

Commentator’s notes

Alastair Eykyn: A new-look England squad includes five potential debutants, facing a side they’ve never lost to.

The key question for Red Rose fans: will they see a new England approach? Their World Cup style was effective, but limited and kick-heavy.

The personnel picked by Steve Borthwick have the capacity to play a much more expansive game…whether they are granted a licence is another question.

Italy took two hammerings at the World Cup, but their new coach promises greater pragmatism. The Garbisi brothers combine at half-back, and classy centre Menoncello’s return from injury is critical to their fortunes.

View from both camps

Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada: “The Italian team today, we have a kind of identity when we talk about rugby style, but I think we have to define even deeper the identity of the team.

“I’m a Latin, I have an Anglo-Saxon way of thinking but I feel like emotions are really important, like any human being, but for us it’s a little bit more, especially when we talk about rugby. My plan is to work deeply with them to define together the kind of identity. It’s not Gonzalo’s identity.”

England head coach Steve Borthwick: “The Azzurri are a dangerous team, with some talented ball carriers and players who like to find space.

“We’ll need to make good decisions, keep our discipline and maintain a level of intensity to our performance from the first whistle to the last.”


Italy: 15-Allan, 14-Pani, 13-Brex, 12-Menoncello, 11-Ioane, 10-Garbisi, 9-Garbisi; 1-Fischetti, 2-Lucchesi, 3-Ceccarelli, 4-Cannone, 5-Ruzza, 6-Negri, 7-Lamaro (capt), 8-Cannone

Replacements: 16-Nicotera, 17-Spagnolo, 18-Zilocchi, 19-Zambonin, 20-Iachizzi, 21-Zuliani, 22-Varney, 23-Izekor

England: 15-Steward, 14-Freeman, 13-Slade, 12-Dingwall, 11-Daly, 10-Ford, 9-Mitchell; 1-Stuart, 2-Marler, 3-George (capt), 4-Itoje, 5-Chessum, 6-Roots, 7-Underhill, 8-Earl

Replacements: 16-Dan, 17-Obano, 18-Cole, 19-Coles, 20-Cunningham-South, 21-Care, 22-Smith, 23-Feyi-Waboso

England's Jack van Poortvliet scores a try against Italy in the 2023 Six Nations

Match facts


  • Italy are yet to record a victory in 30 attempts against England since they first met in 1991.
  • England have scored at least 30 points in each of the past 11 meetings.
  • Italy have only once scored over 20 points against England in the Six Nations and that was in a 80-23 loss in 2001.


  • Italy could win three Tests in a row at home for the first time since 1997-98, when they beat Ireland, Scotland and Argentina.
  • However, they have lost all 25 home games in the Six Nations since beating Ireland in 2013.
  • They are aiming to avoid losing three successive Tests by 50 points or more for the first time, following heavy back-to-back defeats at the World Cup versus France (60-7) and New Zealand (96-17).


  • England have won the Six Nations championship on seven occasions but since their last title win in 2020 have finished fifth, third and fourth
  • They had the best success rate in the 2023 Six Nations at both the line-out (92%) and scrum (96%).
  • However, they ranked last or second last for metres gained, breaks, defenders beaten, tackle evasion, gainline success and 22 entries. They also had the poorest goal-kicking success rate (62%), the highest turnover count (15 per game) and the worst tackle success rate (83%).

Match officials

Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Nic Berry (Australia) & Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)

TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)

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