It was a bitterly disappointing return to rugby for Italy as they were taken to the cleaners by Ireland last weekend in Dublin, losing 50-17. That saw them pick up their fifth consecutive wooden spoon and 14th from a possible 21 in the Six Nations (since 2000), and they’ll be going back to the drawing board for the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup.
England on the other hand, will be needing a run out after their friendly against Barbarians was called off due to 12 of the Barbarians players being stood down for breaking Covid rules.
They’ll therefore be going into this one without a warm-up game, but no doubt Eddie Jones will have a trick or two up his sleeve to get his men ready for it.
His charges currently trail Ireland by a point and with a current inferior points difference of 23, they’ll know that anything short of a bonus point victory and a winning margin of at least 25 will mean that the Irish will only have to win the concluding game of the tournament. However, that could be easier said than done given the French are favourites to win that one in Paris.
You have to go back five years for the last time the Azzurri managed to win in this tournament, a run of 26 matches now and even that victory came at Murrayfield.
Indeed, Scotland have been one of the weaker sides in this tournament down the years alongside Italy, making that sole victory since the start of the 2014 tournament all the worse (W1-L33).
That includes 16 straight defeats in Rome and this certainly doesn’t look like the sort of match they’ll be turning that record around, even if England haven’t had a warm-up fixture.
England -31 Point Handicap
Indeed, against England, Ireland, Wales and France in those games at Stadio Olimpico, they have lost all 12 matches by an average 27-point margin over the last six years, with England winning by 41, 31, 31 points in their respective three such outings.
Of course, the visitors are missing nine important players from their squad for this finale, but they have more than adequate replacements and we wouldn’t think that should affect the scoreline too much.
Moreover, given the circumstances of this game, Jones’ men will know they can ill afford to take their foot off the gas if they want to lift their seventh Six Nations title, and we’d expect them to come out all guns blazing and cover the 31-point handicap.