Harlequins trio to launch England’s siege of Rome – 2022 Six Nations

2022 Six Nations
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Eddie Jones has copped a fair bit of criticism this week after a frustrating loss to Scotland last weekend. Eight changes to the line-up against the Italians on Sunday would suggest a radical shake-up. However, Charlie Inglefield thinks he has made the right selection choice here. England have to score points to have any remote chance of staying in contention for the 2022 Six Nations. By picking Alex Dombrandt and Joe Marchant, the latter in his preferred position in the centres to partner Marcus Smith is a positive move. England kicked away a lot of possession in good positions at Murrayfield, this week their attacking strategy has to step up. This Harlequins trio are well placed to do that in Rome.

Talented double-act

England will never have a more talented double act jostling for the number eight jumper. In Italy, it will be Alex Dombrandt’s turn in his first major starting role for England. It is tough on Sam Simmonds, who had an excellent first half against Scotland and whose attacking abilities are closely aligned with Dombrandt. Jones has understandably plumped for Maro Itoje on the blindside to bolster defenses in the absence of Lewis Ludlam. England should get a decent amount of possession in Rome then the stage is set for Dombrandt to unleash his unique set of skills. Sam Simmonds will get his opportunity in the second half to carry on where Dombrandt has left off.

Looking at the bigger picture, if Eddie Jones can get Dombrandt and Simmonds firing in this tournament then it will bode very well for the 2023 World Cup. The back row is such a competitive area and Dombrandt in particular will never have a better opportunity to prove himself on Sunday.

Beware of the Italy syndrome

Every year, Italy get pilloried for their performances and lack of progress. The statistics don’t lie – they have not won a Six Nations game since 2015. Seven years ago. However, Italy will determine who could win the 2022 Six Nations. France have perhaps squandered their opportunity in Paris last weekend. A 27 points differential is decent but the home nations will fancy their chances of bolstering their points difference. Italy were helped by the conditions and an error-strewn first half by France. That should not detract from how brave and combative Italy were. Kieran Crowley the recently installed head coach is a shrewd operator and highly respected in rugby circles. It is doubtful whether they are good enough to win a game in this year’s championship but they will make England visit to Rome on Sunday a tough one.

2022 Six Nations – England take on Italy

England have picked an attacking line-up but they will need their basics to go well first to set the platform to launch their attacking arsenal The performance of England’s front five against Scotland was a shining light in their loss to Scotland. The set-piece and scrum were solid presenting England with a more than a healthy amount of possession and territory. Italy’s forwards competed well against a strong French pack. They will be no shrinking violets when England’s forwards come to town.

Ewels and Stuart with points to prove

Both Charlie Ewels and Will Stuart have been around this England squad for a few years now. They both start on Sunday and hopefully a turbulent season at the Rec has not dented their confidence. Ewels has been impressive as the besieged leader at Bath, now he needs to step up on the international stage. 23 caps since 2016 would suggest that Ewels has had a few opportunities to challenge the second row hierarchy. Will Stuart has been quietly learning his trade at club level and has not let England down off the bench. Sunday presents an excellent stage for both Ewels and Stuart to make their squad places more secure.

The selection of Harry Randall is an exciting one at scrum-half. Jones will hope that Randall can do his basics well but also snipe and probe the Italian defences. At times this season Randall has been electric for Bristol and he is lethal when give a yard or two to work in. It is tough on Ben Youngs but the thinking from England’s management is an understandable one with the need for points.

Joe Marchant coming back into the centres creates an attacking trio alongside Henry Slade and Marcus Smith. Raffi Quirke’s memorable try against the Springboks in the autumn came off a glorious interchange between Marchant and Smith. Not too much blame can be attached to Marchant’s defensive challenges last weekend. He was shunted to the wing having had little preparation for the Calcutta Cup with a Covid diagnosis. Rather like Will Stuart and Charlie Ewels, Marchant has been in and around the England set-up for a while. Marchant’s ability and talent is not in question, it has been his consistency. Over the last 12 months, Marchant has produced the goods for Harlequins and beside Marcus Smith he could wreak havoc against the Italians.

Substance and style the order of the day

England will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t on Sunday against Italy. They will be expected to pile on the points and be more clinical than what we saw at Murrayfield last Saturday. If England have serious designs on staying in the running for the 2022 Six Nations, then they must rack up the points. Jones will want to see a more profitable attacking edge and continued progression up front. As disrespectful as it sounds, England will never get a better opportunity in the Six Nations to get their confidence back up and running than against Italy. For all of the brave strides that Italy made against France, they still shipped 37 points.

The likes of Stuart, Ewels, Randall and Dombrandt have all been given starting spots. They must repay Jones hard sought after approval and play well if they are to stay in future squads. Italy will come out full throttle on Sunday but England will surely be too good. England to win comfortably 40-15.

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