Ireland play Italy in Chicago this weekend – here’s the team news, TV details and top facts

Autumn Internationals Ireland v Italy Preview

Two years ago Ireland travelled to Chicago and secured arguably their most famous victory – beating New Zealand for the first time. This weekend they return to Soldier Field to face familiar Six Nations foes Italy.

Some of the players may not be so familiar to the American audience, however, with both sides opting for relatively inexperienced sides.

Centre Michele Campagnaro, with 34 Test appearances, is the most-capped player in the Italy side while Jack McGrath, with a half-century, has that honour for the Ireland starting XV. The rest of the Irish pack have 63 caps between them!

Autumn Internationals Ireland v Italy Preview

Leading man: Michele Campagnaro breaks against Japan in June (Getty Images)

Still, Ireland will expect to win this Test comfortably and have the firepower in their back-line to expose weaknesses in the Italian defence.

What’s the big team news?

As mentioned above, neither nation has picked their strongest XV. With the Test outside the official international window, Conor O’Shea is unable to select any players based outside of Italy, although Campagnaro has been released from his Exeter contract and will captain his country. Full-back Matteo Minozzi – their most exciting player last season – is also injured.

Ireland left many of their key players at home, the likes of Johnny Sexton and Rory Best not travelling to America, as they look ahead to bigger Tests against Argentina and, significantly, New Zealand.

Related: Are their too many Tests?

Italy are giving Johan Meyer a debut in the back row while Ross Byrne and Will Addison are in line to win their first Ireland caps from the bench with Jimmy Tuivaiti in the same position for the Azzurri.

Autumn Internationals Ireland v Italy Preview

Debutant: Zebre flanker Johan Meyer will play his first Test (Getty Images)

Tadhg Beirne and Jordan Larmour make their first starts for Ireland, with the former sure to be targeting turnovers and the latter likely to excite the crowd with his counter-attacks.

Related: The remarkable story of Tadhg Beirne

Joey Carbery returns to the ground where he made his Test debut, against New Zealand in 2016, and gets a valuable opportunity to start in the No 10 jersey, alongside former Leinster team-mate Luke McGrath.

Ireland’s reliance on Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray at half-back has raised concerns and this is a chance to test the strength of their depth in those positions.

What have the coaches said?

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said on captain Rhys Ruddock: “He is a workaholic on the pitch and prepares incredibly well off it, so he’s an ideal leader in the absence of Rory, Pete and Johnny.”

Autumn Internationals Ireland v Italy Preview

Skipper: Rhys Ruddock will lead out Ireland (Getty Images)

Italy coach Conor O’Shea said: “We haven’t fired a shot against Ireland in the two matches we’ve played. And I want this to be the first staging post to us actually firing a shot, and actually make them sit up and notice that we’re on the way.”

Any interesting statistics?

  • Of the Ireland starting XV that secured a Six Nations Grand Slam against England in March, only three players remain – Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki and Jacob Stockdale.
  • Italy’s back-line has twice as many caps as Ireland’s, with 130 to 65.
  • Ireland have lost four of 28 Tests against Italy. Three of those defeats came in the Nineties while the fourth and most recent was in Rome in 2013.
  • Italy have won only two Tests since the start of 2017, beating Fiji last November and Japan in June.
  • Ireland have scored more than 50 points in their last three Tests against Italy, winning 58-15 in 2016, 63-10 in 2017 and 56-19 in 2018.

What time does it kick off and is it on TV?

Saturday 3 November, Ireland v Italy, Soldier Field

The Test gets underway at 3pm in Chicago, which is 8pm in the UK and Ireland.

It is being broadcast live on Premier Sports in the UK and eir Sports in Ireland.

Autumn Internationals Ireland v Italy Preview

The setting: Soldier Field in Chicago (Getty Images)

Who’s the referee?

Welshman Nigel Owens has crossed the Atlantic to take charge of this fixture and has two Frenchmen as his assistants – Romain Poite and Alexandre Ruiz.

What are the line-ups?

Ireland: Jordan Larmour; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Joey Carbery, Luke McGrath; Jack McGrath, Niall Scannell, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock (captain), Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Will Addison.

Italy: Luca Sperandio; Mattia Bellini, Michele Campagnaro (captain); Luca Morisi, Giulio Bisegni; Carlo Canna, Tito Tebaldi; Nicola Quaglio, Luca Bigi, Tiziano Pasquali, Marco Fuser, George Biagi, Johan Meyer, Abraham Steyn, Renato Giammarioli.

Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Cherif Traore, Giosue Zilocchi, Marco Lazzaroni, Federico Ruzza, Jimmy Tuivaiti, Guglielmo Palazzani, Ian McKinley.

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