Fixture in Focus: England v Italy

Italy travel to Twickenham on the penultimate weekend of the 2019 Six Nations as England look to preserve a historic record.

Italy travel to Twickenham on the penultimate weekend of the 2019 Six Nations as England look to preserve a historic record.

Eddie Jones’ men return to their spiritual home after a trip to Principality Stadium the week before and will look to set up the final weekend’s Calcutta Cup clash with victory over Italy.

For the visitors, this one ends a run of consecutive home matches against Wales and Ireland as they look to record a famous win at the home of rugby.

Click here for the complete 2019 Six Nations fixture list

England ran in seven tries against the Azzurri in Rome earlier this year, running out 46-15 victors at the Stadio Olimpico, while they beat Italy 36-15 last time the fixture was played in London.

Feeling blue

For Italy, to emerge from Twickenham with victory would be to break a 28-year spell: in 24 attempts, the Azzurri have yet to beat England.

Whilst there have been a sprinkling of blowout victories in the fixture’s history, the record does not give credence to the often battling affairs, several of which in recent years have been close-run contests indeed.

Between 2010 and 2013, three of England’s four wins over Italy were by less than seven points, while they also made headlines during the 2017 Twickenham defeat.

England were bang in-form when Italy came to town: a winning streak of 16-matches testament to the fact, but it was Italy who controlled proceedings, for the first-half at least.

Conor O’Shea deployed the novel tactic of directing his side to avoid committing any men to the breakdown, thereby negating the offside law and allowing Italy’s defenders to step into territory behind the non-existent ruck.

The move rattled England, who went into the break trailing 10-5, before Eddie Jones figured out a fix and England turned things around.

While it seems unlikely that Italy will repeat the trick this time around, England must be wary of a side who are certainly a great deal more competitive than they once were.

London calling

A city approaching its 2000th birthday, London has had plenty of time to accrue its reputation as a modern-day metropolis, with multifarious attractions on offer to cater to everyone’s fancy.

If your interests are piqued towards a historical persuading, then the Tower of London is the perfect place to start.

The famous castle that has acted as both palace and prison since it was built in the 11th century, and which houses England’s Crown Jewels, is a fifteen-minute walk from the City of London and a stone’s throw from the iconic Tower Bridge.

Fear not, however, if this does not appeal; perhaps you’d prefer to join one of the other 500,000 daily visitors to Oxford Circus, London’s busiest retail thoroughfare, which boasts over 300 shops.

From there, it’s just a short walk to Tottenham Court Road tube station; catch a Northern line train south to Waterloo where the London Eye is just around the corner.

The best way to see the city, the landmark has become synonymous with London’s skyline as it attracts nearly four million visitors on an annual basis.

The venue

Undoubtedly one of the most recognisable stadiums in world rugby, there is little to add about Twickenham that hasn’t already been said.

Opened in 1909, the ground hosted its first international a year later when England beat Wales 11-6.

Since then, the capacity has grown from an initial 20,000 to over 80,000, making it the second largest stadium in the UK after Wembley.

Fondly known as the Cabbage Patch due to the fact that the plot of land was used to grow the vegetables before it was purchased by the RFU in 1907, the famed pub of the same name stands as a rugby lover’s monument to that moniker.

Twickenham is easily accessible from central London, with trains departing from Waterloo on a regular basis to Twickenham station, a fifteen-minute walk from the stadium, while taxis and bus services are also readily available.