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Italy captain Sergio Parisse: All the pressure on England in Six Nations opener

England head into Sunday’s clash as big favourites.

Sergio Parisse insists Italy have nothing to lose when they face England in their NatWest 6 Nations opener at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

The Azzurri have never won in 23 previous meetings between the rivals and their last victory in the Championship was 1,072 days ago, against Scotland in 2015.

In contrast, England are looking to become the first team to win three outright titles and enter the tournament as favourites.

“We don’t have any pressure on us – we are playing England, the second best team in the world,” Italy captain Parisse said.

“They won the Six Nations last year so they have all the pressure on them. My players are convinced they can put in a big performance against a great team.

“As for the result, we’ll see at the end, but the important thing is to prove ourselves against a great side.

“When you feel that you are in the game, maybe then you can start to think about a big result.

“Now for the moment our dream is to do a great performance against a great team.”

Parisse insists England have lost their main source of momentum in the injury-enforced absence of Billy Vunipola, who has been replaced at number eight by Sam Simmonds.

“Of course there are differences between Simmonds and Vunipola. In terms of carrying, maybe in terms of physicality, they have lost a little bit,” Parisse said.

“I’m really sure Simmonds wants to have a big game, but we’ll have a really good battle with Chris Robshaw and Courtney Lawes so it will be a big challenge for us as a back row. I don’t think England will miss a lot.

“I have confidence in my team-mates, especially the back row, in the way we work. I’m sure it’s going to be a big battle for England as well.”

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