Match Preview


Jamie George
It’s the dawn of a new era in Rome as Gonzalo Quesada prepares for his first game as Italy head coach and the chance to make immediate history.

England remain the only team Italy are yet to beat in the Guinness Men’s Six Nations and their meeting at the Stadio Olimpico is an intriguing battle between two teams with question marks against them.

Italy may have endured a disappointing World Cup and exited after the pool stage, but their team remains full of talent and potential.

Too often written off, they gave France an almighty scare in Round 1 last year and Quesada is tasked with turning those phases of promise into something more tangible.

England are also seeking more consistency and their first Championship challenge since they last lifted the trophy - ironically in Rome - in 2020.

Steve Borthwick’s tough first campaign in charge brought their heaviest ever home defeat to France in Round 4 and a third successive defeat to Scotland.

A run to the World Cup semi-finals has renewed confidence internally and externally and they will now expect to kick on under new captain Jamie George.

To do that they must start fast and win their first Round 1 match since 2019.


Viewers in the UK can watch the match on ITV 1 and on the ITV Hub, with coverage beginning at 1.30pm. Alternatively you can listen on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra from 2.15pm, or through the BBC Sounds app.

Fans in Ireland can watch on Virgin Media One from 1.30pm.


It’s a family affair at half-back for Italy, with Alessandro Garbisi beating Stephen Varney to the No.9 jersey.

He plays inside his brother Paolo, the mercurial fly-half who will conduct their attack. There is plenty of flair in the Italian backs, with the lightning quick Ange Capuozzo and Monty Ioane on the wings, and Tommaso Allan acting as a second playmaker at full-back.

Michele Lamaro retains the captaincy and features in an experienced pack where just one player has fewer than 30 caps.

Much has been made of England’s long injury list on the eve of the Championship but Steve Borthwick has still named a squad packed with experience.

With Owen Farrell stepping back from Test rugby, hooker Jamie George is given the captain’s armband and he is one of five forwards in the squad with more than 50 caps.

Fraser Dingwall and Ethan Roots make their debuts at inside centre and blindside flanker respectively, while reserve fly-half Fin Smith, back-row Chandler Cunningham-South and winger Immanuel Feyi-Waboso should do likewise from the bench.

Not for the first time this decade, there is a lot of excitement surrounding an English fly-half called Smith, and with Marcus is currently out with a groin injury, his namesake Fin has a chance to establish himself at this level.


Italy flanker Sebastian Negri said: “England are a physical side with a really good set-piece and kicking game. We’ll have to match that and not go off the boil and start chucking the ball around.

“We need a balanced approach and if we underestimate them we’re in trouble. They showcased what they can do at the World Cup. They maybe don’t play the prettiest brand of rugby but they get results and that’s what counts.”

England head coach Steve Borthwick said: "After an excellent week's preparation in Girona, we look forward to the challenge of playing Italy in Rome.

"The Azzurri are a dangerous team, with some talented ball carriers and players who like to find space.

"We'll need to make good decisions, keep our discipline, and maintain a level of intensity to our performance from the first whistle to the last."


Borthwick has made no secret of his desire to restore England to being one of the best set piece operators in the world, and their lineout in particular has been sharp on his watch.

While they have the capability to go through the backs, expect the visitors to keep the game tight and play north-to-south rugby, focussed on a strong scrum, lineout and breakdown.

George, in his first game as captain, will look to set the tone.

Gianmarco Lucchesi is the man tasked with stopping him. The Benetton missed the World Cup through injury but is fit again and his immediate return to the starting line-up is proof of just how highly-rated he is.


  • The last time Italy hosted England in the 2022 Guinness Men’s Six Nations, they failed to score a single point and lost 33-0. It was the first time they failed to score a point against England and their sixth in Championship history.

  • Italy have won half of their last eight home matches, including each of their last two. The last time they won three on the spin was in 1997-1998, when they beat Ireland, Scotland and Argentina.

  • England’s average margin of victory in their 24 Championship victory against Italy is 28 points.

  • Jamie George has a 92% lineout success rate in his Guinness Men’s Six Nations career, the best rate of any player with at least 100 attempts.

  • England recorded the best success rate at both the lineout (92%) anc scrum (96%) during the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, while they gained the most maul metres (73) and scored the most tries directly from the maul (3) in last year’s Championship.


While the likes of Capuozzo and Ioane will be attracting a lot of fantasy attention, it is in their back row where one of their most consistent fantasy talents lies. Lorenzo Cannone (15 stars) is one of the most reliable fantasy points returners in the tournament. Since making his international debut in 2022, he has scored 4 tries in 16 games and in the 2023 Six Nations recorded the highest metres carried of any forward with 308m. He should be nailed on in the Italy back row and is well worth the selection.

Looking a bit deeper into the England squad there are other options flying under the radar. Many will point to one of the breakout stars of the Prem this season, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso (13 stars), to make a big impact.

However, the dark horse to get really excited about is Tommy Freeman (8 stars). One of the top performers in the Premiership and Europe this season in terms of tries scored, metres carried and defenders beaten, and at a bargain 8 stars he is well worth a gamble!


Italy: 15. Tommaso Allan, 14. Ange Capuozzo, 13. Juan Ignacio Brex, 12. Tommaso Menoncello, 11. Monty Ioane, 10. Paolo Garbisi, 9. Alessandro Garbisi, 1. Danilo Fischetti, 2. Gianmarco Lucchesi, 3. Pietro Ceccarelli, 4. Niccolo Cannone, 5. Federico Ruzza, 6. Sebastian Negri, 7. Michele Lamaro (c), 8. Lorenzo Cannone

Replacements: 16. Giacomo Nicotera, 17. Mirco Spagnolo, 18. Giosue Zilocchi, 19. Andrea Zambonin, 20. Edoardo Iachizzi, 21. Manuel Zuliani, 22. Stephen Varney, 23. Lorenzo Pani

England: 15. Freddie Steward, 14. Tommy Freeman, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Fraser Dingwall, 11. Elliot Daly, 10. George Ford, 9. Alex Mitchell, 1. Joe Marler, 2. Jamie George (c), 3. Will Stuart, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Ollie Chessum, 6. Ethan Roots, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Ben Earl

Replacements: 16. Theo Dan, 17. Ellis Genge, 18. Dan Cole, 19. Alex Coles, 20. Chandler Cunningham-South, 21. Danny Care, 22. Fin Smith, 23. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso