Alex Payne: Another step closer
Sky Sports presenter Alex Payne previews Sunday's Six Nations clash between England and Italy.
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England are certainly holding all the cards ahead of the game at Twickenham. They have never lost to Italy and I just cannot see that changing this weekend - a home win at 1/250 indicates Sky Bet feels the same! For all the media's talk of the Grand Slam next week, I don't think complacency will be a factor for Stuart Lancaster's men this weekend, particularly with things to work on after France and preparations to be made for Wales.
For the first time in a decade England are making alterations from a position of strength, not searching for solutions, and the few tweaks this week reward those pushing hardest while developing the options for the 2015 World Cup. The general consensus is that Stuart Lancaster's biggest strength is in selection, and one noteworthy sub-plot to this week's media activities is the way the head coach has gently applied pressure to his back three ahead of the Italy game. It will be interesting to see how they react.
The Italians have their captain back, Sergio Parisse, who will certainly hold things together and the visitors can rely on a powerful pack. However, the force is with England, and in terms of value this weekend I am taking England to beat the 26 points handicap (10/11). In the last five games at Twickenham, England have got home by an average of 30 points against Italy, it was 59-12 a couple of years ago when Chris Ashton scored four. England's number 10 that day was Toby Flood who's back again, if they can bring the best out of each other once again you may be interested in an Ashton double at 5/2, the hat-trick at 15/2.
Searching for value this weekend is not easy with the obvious candidates not offering a lot, but the recalled Danny Care is in the form of his life, and I think is a live contender for first try scorer at 8/1. Mako Vunipola knows his way to the tryline and will be buzzing on adrenaline on his first start and is worth a look at 11/2 anytime.