No surprise at Twickenham

  • By: David Gee
  • Last Updated: March 9 2013, 14:47 GMT

Our tipster David Gee takes a look ahead to Sunday's Six Nations clash between England and Italy at Twickenham.

England will be celebrating again
England will be celebrating again

England v Italy (Sunday, 15.00)

Although the England camp will be having none of it, the Grand Slam must surely be in their minds now following their victory over France a fortnight ago. I'm still far from convinced that this England set-up is world class just yet but they are very much heading in the right direction and coach Stuart Lancaster will want them to peak just as the 2015 World Cup is on the horizon. Italy have been the architects of their own downfall during this Six Nations and for every moment of hope, there have been several of despair. It could just be that their opening-weekend victory against France wasn't quite the giant-killing we thought it was at the time and indeed the French still prop up the table. However, the promise of Luciano Orquera's performance during that match hasn't materialised and Kris Burton has suddenly found himself back in favour at No 10. The Azzurri have not really done the basics right during this tournament and if they tackle against England as they did against Scotland and Wales, Lancaster's men could easily run up a cricket score. The one silver lining for Italy ahead of Sunday's clash is that Sergio Parisse has been cleared to play following an appeal over his ban for insulting a referee. However, Parisse will really need to make his presence felt for there to be anything other than an English victory at Twickenham. Lancaster will name his side to face Italy on Friday but there are expected to be five changes to the side that dispatched the French. Fly-half Toby Flood will replace the injured Owen Farrell whilst Danny Care, James Haskell and Tom Youngs could all conceivably start. The layers give the Azzurri a 25-point start which looks about right. Italy are unlikely to hemorrhage points early on in the game and without Farrell, England lack a kicker they can stake their life on. I couldn't back Italy given the way they have capitulated in their last two games and it's likely that England will keep chipping away until Jacques Brunel's men throw in the towel. The way to play this game is probably to back England at half-time on the in-running handicap - I can see it being close after 40 minutes and then England are likely to pull away in the second half. I won't be the only person thinking like that though and it's probable that the layers will bear that in mind when they re-calibrate the markets at half-time.

Verdict: England by 20.

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