"Garbisi vs Ford" - 3 Key Battles: Italy vs England 2024 Six Nations - Page 2 of 2 - Ruck

“Garbisi vs Ford” – 3 Key Battles: Italy vs England 2024 Six Nations

2 – FLANKERS: Sebastian Negri & Michele Lamaro vs Ethan Roots & Sam Underhill

Ethan Roots of Exeter Chiefs during the Investec Champions Cup, Round 3 match between Exeter Chiefs and Glasgow Warriors at Sandy Park, Exeter on 13th Jan 2024. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Our second key battle comes in the back row, with the duelling pairs of flankers set for Colosseum-worthy collision in the Eternal City. Beginning with the English back-row, and we see a debutant in Exeter Chiefs blindside flanker Ethan Roots. The New Zealand-born heavy hitter is an exciting addition to Steve Borthwick’s squad, and has been making a name for himself with battering collisions down in Devon.

Partnering Roots is Sam Underhill, who is once again a starting feature of the England squad after his cameo appearence in the Rugby World Cup. Underhill was drafted in at the very last moment, to replace an injured Jack Willis for the bronze medal match against Argentina. However, with Willis extending his time out in Toulouse, he forfeits his spot in the England squad with Underhill more than happy to return. The Bath battering ram had formed the revered ‘Under-Curry’ partnership with Tom Curry, yet will partner with Roots for the first time in his career.

Michele Lamaro, Captain of Italy is interviewed during the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Media Launch at County Hall, Lambeth, London on Monday 23rd January 2023 | Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK.

Opposing the newly formed England flank partners, are two Italian back-rowers who know each-other to a telepathic extent. Sebastian Negri and his captain Michele Lamaro are seemingly irreplaceable at the sides of the Italian scrum, and often end their matches atop of their tackle charts. Lamaro packs an added punch and attacking flair on the offensive foot, whilst Negri’s no-nonsense defence and immense work rate complements his teammate to form the perfect partnership. Negri and Lamaro are certainly the more experienced of the flankers, and this factor could well play into Italian hands should Roots or Underhill loose their cool.

3 – FULLBACK: Tommaso Allan vs Freddie Steward

Freddie Steward of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 12 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

Our third pick for a key battle is in the fifteen jersey, with Tommaso Allan set to go toe-to-toe with Freddie Steward. Both men are masterful under the high ball and lift their fans off their feet when they return a down-field kick. Steward edges out Allan in his kick-return proficiency, yet Allan’s boot packs an extra punt than the Leicester Tigers fullback.

Steward is firmly back in the England fold after a mixed bag at the Rugby World Cup. Having battled against Marcus Smith for his starting fullback spot, Steward now stands relatively alone as the specialist fullback option. With Smith back to fly half in Farrell’s vacancy, and now away due to injury, the pressure is on Steward to keep fit for an expected extended run throughout the Six Nations. Elliot Daly presents a viable coverage option, yet the Saracen Swiss army-knife has been picked to start on the left wing against the Azzurri.

Tommaso Allan of Italy looks dejected after losing during the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 12 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

Former Harlequin Tomasso Allan will be well known to fans of the Premiership, with the versatile playmaker able to cover both fullback and fly half. Allan ran out in the 10 jersey in Garbisi’s absence throughout the Rugby World Cup, yet returns to the back-field in what is arguably his stronger position. An excellent reader of the game, Allan scans and adapts to his surroundings, and is amongst the Italians most commanding back-line players. An inteligent rugby player with an explosive first step, the Perpignan man should be on England fans radars for this match.