England's hunt for a fourth straight championship title continues in Parma

TAGS:

Women’s Six Nations Italy v England Preview

England will be looking to keep a couple of winning runs going when they face Italy in Parma on Sunday in the second round of the Women’s Six Nations.

The defending champions, who are chasing a fourth straight title, swept aside Scotland 57-5 in Edinburgh to extend their unbeaten run and a win this weekend would make it 20 consecutive Test victories.

England have also never lost to Italy in the Six Nations, winning all 15 of their previous encounters and keeping the Italians scoreless on six occasions.

The Red Roses are clear favourites for this match, but expect a few surprises too. Head coach Simon Middleton has spoken of how he was pleased with the way the nine tries were scored against the Scots, saying: “One of the things we wanted to add was unpredictability (to our attack). There was a bit of everything. We were fairly clinical when we got near the line.”

Italy showed plenty of unpredictability against France in round one, too. Beatrice Rigoni was a particular standout at fly-half and the Azzurre made more offloads (17) than any other team in the opening fixtures. That enabled them to find holes in the French defence; they just couldn’t turn those chances into tries and lost 39-6.

With this Women’s Six Nations Italy v England preview, we have you covered in terms of team news, TV details and more.

What’s the big team news?

Italy have made just two changes to the team that lost to France last weekend. The big call is at full-back, where Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi replaces regular captain Manuela Furlan. No 8 Elisa Giordano, who reached a half-century of caps in Grenoble, takes over as skipper for this match.

The other change is at fly-half, where Veronica Madia starts, Beatrice Rigoni shifts to inside-centre and Alyssa D’Inca drops to the bench. Francesca Barro could also win her first cap as a replacement.

Simon Middleton has changed half his team for this match – not a surprise given that he said before the championship that he wanted to give all his players an opportunity in the first three matches.

The headline selection is the return of Natasha Hunt at scrum-half. It’s her first Test since November 2020 having taking a year away from the set-up.

She is partnered at half-back by Zoe Harrison, with Helena Rowland and Holly Aitchison each moving a position out from that which they occupied last weekend against Scotland. The other fresh faces in the backs are Lydia Thompson and Sarah McKenna on the wings.

Elsewhere, props Vickii Cornborough and Shaunagh Brown come in to form a front row with Lark Davies while Alex Matthews and Sadia Kabeya start on the flanks, with Poppy Cleall shifting to No 8 and taking on the captaincy.

There is plenty of experience on the bench, too, with the likes of Sarah Hunter, Emily Scarratt and Sarah Bern.

What have the coaches said?

Italy coach Andrea Di Giandomenico: “England are the best team in the world at the moment. So I don’t look at England. I look at my team because it is a big challenge, the best challenge in the world at the moment.

β€œI don’t think my team will need any more motivation than this.”

England coach Simon Middleton: β€œWe always said we would rotate and while a large percentage of the squad will have had game time come Sunday, those yet to feature have every opportunity to throw their hat into the ring for the Wales game next week.

β€œItaly are a very unpredictable side. They have threats which we need to be mindful of and prepared for. It’s another challenge and one we’re all looking forward to.”

What time does it kick off and is it on TV?

The match will kick off at 3pm (UK & Ireland time, 4pm in Italy) on Sunday 3 April at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma.

It will be available to watch live on BBC Two and the BBC iPlayer in the UK as well as RTE Player in Ireland. For more information on how to watch the match from elsewhere in the world, see our Women’s Six Nations live stream guide.

The referee is Kat Roche and she will be assisted by Hollie Davidson and Doriane Domenjo. The television match official is Olly Hodges.

What are the line-ups?

Italy: Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi; Aura Muzzo, Michela Sillari, Beatrice Rigoni, Maria Magatti; Veronica Madia, Sofia Stefan; Gaia Maris, Melissa Bettoni, Lucia Gai, Sara Tounesi, Giordana Duca, Francesca Sberna, Isabella Locatelli, Elisa Giordano (captain).

Replacements: Vittoria Vecchini, Francesca Barro, Sara Seye, Valeria Fedrighi, Beatrice Veronese, Sara Barattin, Alyssa D’Inca, Manuela Furlan.

England: Ellie Kildunne; Lydia Thompson, Holly Aitchison, Helena Rowland, Sarah McKenna; Zoe Harrison, Natasha Hunt; Vickii Cornborough, Lark Davies, Shaunagh Brown, Rosie Galligan, Abbie Ward, Alex Matthews, Sadia Kabeya, Poppy Cleall (captain).

Replacements: Connie Powell, Maud Muir, Sarah Bern, Sarah Hunter, Vicky Fleetwood, Lucy Packer, Emily Scarratt, Emma Sing.

Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.Β