England travel to Rome in search of their first win of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations.
Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points ahead of their clash with Italy.
Eddie Jones has recalled one of sport’s most iconic images to inspire the ruthlessness he wants to see from his team at the Stadio Olimpico. Muhammad Ali taunted Sonny Liston after knocking him down in the opening round of their second clash in 1965 and the picture of him stood above his stricken opponent is the metaphor Jones is using for what he wants to see from England on Sunday.
A performance to “light up Rome” has been Jones’ mantra for the week as England begin the task of rebuilding their Six Nations title challenge after falling to Scotland in round one. For the third successive year they have stumbled at the first hurdle and only an emphatic victory against the tournament’s weakest team will enable them to move on from their self-inflicted downfall at Murrayfield.
Of the six changes in personnel made to the side that surrendered a 17-10 lead against Scotland, the most intriguing is Harry Randall’s selection at scrum-half ahead of veteran Ben Youngs. Randall is a dynamic runner and major threat in open play, but he has also honed the more functional aspects of his game to make his third start for England. It will be hoped that he adds tempo to the attack.
Jones will hope Harlequins’ success rubs off on England after picking three of the Premiership champions’ key players. Marcus Smith continues at fly-half where he will marshal a midfield that includes the elusive Joe Marchant, while Alex Dombrandt is present at number eight. Smith and Dombrandt combine to devastating effect for Quins and the aspiration will be for their club understanding to translate to the international game.
It is hard to argue a case for England losing to opponents they have beaten on all 16 previous occasions. Italy’s Six Nations record is abysmal, consisting of 33 straight defeats dating back to 2015 in a run that has produced consistent calls for relegation to be introduced into the competition. However, on Friday night their Under-20 team beat their English counterparts for the first time in what long-suffering Azzurri fans will hope is an omen.