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English to win power fight

Italy v England, Stadio Flaminio, Sunday

(Live RTE2/BBC1, KO 2.30)

This has all the appearance of a 'bash 'em, crash 'em' collision between two countries whose focus is all about physical domination.

Admittedly, England has innovative coach Brian Smith on board to spread the gospel of creativity.

But, the basic shape and flow of England's attack is a reflection of the power-based patterns in the Guinness Premiership.

When your bread-and-butter work at club level is based on a pragmatic approach to territory and the gain line, it is next to impossible to flick a switch and turn on the entertainment value. Coach Martin Johnson would have noted that their three tries came from a forward surge, Danny Care's sniper value and an interception rather than any aesthetic outlook. Prop Dan Cole and centre Riki Flutey are added to the mix against the Azzurri.

England can take this opportunity to broaden their ambition in what should be a safe environment for experimentation against an Italian side committed to avoiding a whipping -- especially in Rome.

Verdict: England

Italy: TBA.

England: D Armitage; M Cueto, M Tait, R Flutey, U Monye; J Wilkinson, D Care; T Payne, D Hartley, D Cole, S Shaw, S Borthwick (capt), J Haskell, L Moody, N Easter.


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