Preview: Italy vs England

England must beat Italy in Rome and hope that France defeat Ireland if Chris Robshaw is to lift the Six Nations trophy.

England currently have a points difference of +32 with Ireland on +81 and France on +3. If the result in Rome goes to form and Ireland win, then Stuart Lancaster's men will be left wondering what might have been in Paris on the opening weekend.

Italy will feel a similar sense of frustration, because a tournament that started so brightly against Wales in Cardiff has now faded away.

Coach Jacques Brunel is clearly trying to move away from Italy's previous mantra of forward dominance and minimal back play, but it's a long process, one that certainly won't be complete by next year's World Cup.

There is a ton of potential, though. Michele Campagnaro, Alberto de Marchi, Tommy Allan, Edoardo Gori, Joshua Furno and Leonardo Sarto will carry Italy forward, helped by the experience of a rejuvenated Luke McLean along with Sergio Parisse and Leonardo Ghiraldini.

Italy, like England, are searching for the blend of experience and youth, and identity. Allan might be the next great Italian No 10 since Diego Dominguez, but he's only 20. Only with encouragement can he emerge into a superstar.

While Welsh heads are beginning to look around for answers to the apparent slow death of 'Warrenball', England fans are beaming. Twickenham during the last two matches has been deafening. Under Lancaster the united crowd are less interested in the search for the next pint and more in their love of a team that are providing substantial entertainment.

One key reason for this infatuation is down to the improvement of a number of key players, with Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes as a prime example. Their second-row combination has been a success, with both players hitting double figures for rucks, tackles and running an efficient lineout with Dylan Hartley, part of the reason why England have dominated possession.

Danny Care and Owen Farrell's positions as England's halfback pairing up to the next World Cup are now set in stone, while Mike Brown has shone from Paris right the way through to Rome for England at the back.

There is depth across the squad and a leadership group beginning to flourish. Should England not take the Six Nations title this year, wiser for their late slip in Paris, it will not be a disaster. You sense they are building for something bigger.

Italy – 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Matias Aguero.
Subs: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Alberto de Marchi, 19 George Fabio Biagi, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Tommaso Allan. 23 Andrea Masi.

England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler
Subs: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 David Attwood, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 George Ford, 23 Manu Tuilagi.

Wales vs Scotland preview

France vs Ireland preview

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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