Finn Russell Stuart Barnes’ talking points

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Stuart Barnes

Rugby Union Expert & Columnist

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Watch England vs Italy from St James’ Park live on Sky Sports Action from 7pm on Friday

Last Updated: 02/09/19 5:36pm

    Finn Russell As the Rugby World Cup edges ever closer, preparations for Eddie Jones' England come sharper into focus

    As the Rugby World Cup edges ever closer, preparations for Eddie Jones’ England come sharper into focus

    England’s World Cup prep, the state of play in Wales, Ireland and Scotland, plus a response to All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen all feature in Stuart Barnes’ talking points this week…

    1.England head to Newcastle for the final game in their series of World Cup warm-ups. You can, of course, see it here onSky Sports. Italy were thrashed by France, who are in the same pool as England. Ergo a lot of people will be expecting a convincing England win, especially after their explosive performance against Ireland just over a week ago.

    Finn Russell England face Italy at St James' Park in Newcastle for their final pre-Rugby World Cup Test on Friday

    England face Italy at St James’ Park in Newcastle for their final pre-Rugby World Cup Test on Friday

    The atmosphere is bound to be excellent. It was a smart decision to bring the game to the sports-mad North East. Obviously Newcastle is, by some distance, primarily a football city but St James’ Park made quite an impression on rugby fans as hosts of both last season’s European Cup finals. It also did a great hosting job in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

    No doubt the fans will give England quite a send off. The question is can England provide a performance to lift the roof off this great ground?

    England vs Italy

    September 6, 2019, 7:00pm

    Live on Finn Russell Sky Sports Action HD

    2.Expectations will be high. It wouldn’t be the first time England have run up a high score against Italy. But on the flip side, Italy have spoiled a few English parties over the years. They are yet to beat England but they have caused consternation on a few occasions.

    Finn Russell Could scrum-half Ben Youngs start again for England in Newcastle?

    Could scrum-half Ben Youngs start again for England in Newcastle?

    It is hard to know which way this one is heading for a number of reasons. One; only Eddie Jones and – perhaps – his management know who will be part of their 23. The same applies to Italy. I would love to see Ben Youngs given a game to sharpen up after a few months out injured and a few years playing at a little less tempo than England requires. Two; what will England reveal/conceal?

    3.When Jones talks about England being ‘brutal’ on the gain line, he means dynamic. Any 22 stone lump could amble up towards a defence but unless it is happening at pace the big fellow will be heading back from whence he came in

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