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Telegraph Sport looks ahead to where England's Six Nations match with Italy will be won and lost.
Man on a mission: England have a number of players with points to prove, not least wing Chris Ashton Photo: GETTY IMAGES
By Steve James11:59PM GMT 09 Mar 20136 Comments
Some say, and Scotland coach Scott Johnson did so recently, that statistics are a bit like a bikini, in that they do not reveal everything. Well, cop this lot. This is rugby’s full frontal. England have never lost to Italy in 18 matches, averaging 40 points a game, to Italy’s 12.
In Rome England have had some problems, not least last year when their 19-15 victory equalled their narrowest success. But at Twickenham in the Six Nations Italy have been woeful, conceding nearly 46 points a match on average and only scoring 11 themselves. England average six tries a match in those matches.
Much was made, far too much of course, of Italy’s opening-round victory over France, and especially a supposed new-found running game courtesy of fly half Luciano Orquera.
Italy scored after four minutes in that match, with Orquera beginning the move with a brilliant break. But the truth is that that he ran through a huge gap between tight-head prop Nicolas Mas and lock Pascal Pape. You or I could have run through that gap.
Orquera was so bad in the next match against Scotland that he was hauled off and dropped for Wales in the last round. He is back today, but he is 31 years old for goodness’ sake. He has done an awfully good job of hiding his ability for all that time if he really is Italy’s saviour.
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Men on a mission
England have a number of players with points to prove, not least wing Chris Ashton. He is easy to criticise, but the truth is that, if you watch the France game again closely, he did not play as badly as suggested. Yes, he missed Wesley Fofana horribly, but otherwise he worked hard in a tight game. It is worth remembering that Mike Brown is hardly setting the world alight on the other flank, and Ashton will do well to remember that he scored four tries against Italy in 2011.