Te'o returns to England side

Kristopher Nichols
February 5, 2018

Centre Ben Te'o will play his first England test for nearly a year after overcoming injury to be included in the team named by Eddie Jones to face Italy in Rome in their opening Six Nations match on Sunday. "When situations are put in front of them, they work it out and get on with it quickly".

However, Italy captain Sergio Parisse says they will "fight in every single match" and are building to "something special" - and it will certainly take something special to beat England, with some bookies giving the home side lowly 12/1 odds. "Conor O'Shea is doing a great job coaching them and it was a good tough game of rugby and we ran away with it in the end".

Italy need to distract England and put them off their game, and inside the cauldron that is the Stadio Olimpico, they may just make any success last longer than the 68 minutes it did previous year. In that space of time England scored a couple of classic first-phase tries. Ben Te'o has made a quick return to fitness following an ankle injury and is preferred at centre, alongside Owen Farrell, to Jonathan Joseph.

England suffered a setback, however, 10 minutes into the match when scrum-half Ben Youngs went off injured.

From the moment Watson ran in the opening try after 172 seconds, a 24th victory over Italy looked assured. Both of Italy's tries were scored via cut-out passes that took English wingers out of the contest.

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The winners of the last two wooden spoons were refreshingly positive and replied with two tries of their own from Tommaso Benvenuti and Mattia Bellini with Tommaso Allan kicking a conversion and penalty. In the entire 80 minutes, England won the ball just three times in the opposite 22.

Allan added the extras and the gap was down to just three points. They have lost all 23 times they have played England but have come close several times.

In the injury-enforced absence of the bullish Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes at No.8, England's battering-ram treatment will be spread between the likes of Mako Vunipola, Courtney Lawes and Te'o, who has been named at outside centre but is bound to pop up as a first receiver with the unadulterated aim of shredding the callow Italian midfield duo of Tommaso Boni and Tommaso Castello. 23 per cent possession, 26 per cent territory in the opponents half, and while things got better in the second half, they couldn't have got much worse.

They enjoyed a dream start with a slick wraparound move involving Ford and Farrell putting Watson in at the corner for a try after only two minutes and 58 seconds. With attacking options such as Joseph, Danny Care and Jack Nowell available on the bench it is easy to see the visitors pulling away late on.

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