5 talking points ahead of England’s crunch Six Nations finale against Italy

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England will be in hot pursuit of the Guinness Six Nations title when they face Italy in Rome.

Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points heading into the Stadio Olimpico showdown.

Laughing stock

Eddie Jones pulled no punches when describing the damage done by the Barbarians players whose nights out in Mayfair forced the cancellation of last Sunday’s opener to the autumn, admitting that rugby has become a “laughing stock”. England’s head coach has targeted a stirring performance in Rome to begin rebuilding the sport’s reputation.

Points, points, points

PA graphic
PA graphic

England are not the masters of their own destiny. If Ireland storm Paris and claim a try-scoring bonus point, the title is theirs. Even without the bonus point, an Irish win would mean Italy have to be beaten with a bonus point to stay in the hunt. It would then come down to points difference and there Andy Farrell’s men have a 23-point advantage heading into the final round.

Roman centurion

Ben Youngs (far right) will win his 100th England cap in Rome
Ben Youngs (far right) will win his 100th England cap in Rome, Adam Davy/PA

Tried and tested

Exeter second row Jonny Hill is the only uncapped player starting at the Stadio Olimpico, but Jones has picked a trio of debutants on the bench in Tom Dunn, Ollie Lawrence and Ollie Thorley. Apart from Hill and rookie full-back George Furbank, Jones has kept faith with established internationals who have served him well in the past. With a third Six Nations title of his reign up for grabs, Rome now is not the time for experimentation.

Damage Limitation

Italian rugby is in the doldrums
Italian rugby is in the doldrums, Donnall Farmer/PA

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