All the stats, quotes and team news you need ahead of this match-up in Rome
Six Nations Italy v Ireland Preview
Will it be the great reset? Ireland look to finally kick-start their Six Nations campaign after two losses – to Wales and France – and head to the Stadio Olimpico in search of their spark.
As rivals triumph, Ireland’s attack has been hammered. And while the side has not been completely revamped for a Roman adventure, head coach Andy Farrell has still made seven changes. Several senior figures return and fans are hopeful they can finally click.
Which is almost painfully funny as a complaint, when you consider that a defeat at home would mean Italy lose 30 Six Nations matches in a row. A truly grim run, stretching back to February 2015.
They believe continuity is the key to success, as they name an unchanged side from the loss to England in round two. At times in these Six Nations, there has been fluid attacking stuff from Italy but not so much in defence. For Ireland it has been the other way around in many respects. Italy need a vastly different result. Ireland want anything but “same again.”
Something has to give.
What’s the big team news?
As mentioned, Italy stick with their starting XV, rather than twist, so we get more of the fledgling Paolo Garbisi-Stephen Varney axis. Maxime Mbanda returns to the match-day 23 while Cherif Traore, Callum Braley and Mattia Bellini all enter the squad for the first time this tournament and start on the bench.
For the visitors, skipper Johnny Sexton is back at fly-half (in place of Billy Burns) and James Ryan returns at. second-row. There’s a new-look front row as Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong replace Rob Herring, Cian Healy and Andrew Porter. Which means an awful lot of rugby IQ is back in harness.
Elsewhere, Jordan Larmour takes Keith Earls’s spot on the wing and Will Connors starts at openside, while Tadhg Beirne switches to blindside. And off the bench, hot prospects Ryan Baird and Craig Casey eye up their debuts.
What have the coaches said?
Italy boss Franco Smith said: “We worked a lot on ourselves, focusing on our game plan. Against Ireland we aim to show the same attitude we showed in the last match with the aim of taking another step forward on our path.”
Of the front-row switches, Andy Farrell said: “The three that come in have been working together in training the last few weeks so there is some continuity in that regard. Ronan (Kelleher) deserves a start. His attitude has been first class in training.”
What are the odds?
Ireland are easily favourites, with odds of 1/25 on Bet365. An Italy win is set at 11/1 or you can get odds of 50/1 on a draw.
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- Ireland have an all-Leinster backline for the first time since 1931, according to Stuart Farmer.
- 2013 was the only time Italy beat Ireland – and it was in Rome.
- Robbie Henshaw wins his 50th cap in this one.
- Italy have still only won 12 matches in the Six Nations.
- 2021 is the first time Ireland have lost their first two Six Nations matches back-to-back.
- According to Opta, Monty Ioane‘s opening score against England was Italy’s second-quickest 6N score ever (Mauro Bergamasco‘s 2007 try v Scotland was quickest).
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Italy vs Ireland, Saturday 27 February, Stadio Olimpico.
The match kicks off at 2.15pm and will be shown on ITV in the UK (coverage beginning at 1.30pm) and in Ireland on Virgin Media One (coverage starts 1pm). You can listen to coverage on RTE Radio 1, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Radio Ulster.
Mathieu Raynal (France) is the match referee. He is assisted by Mike Adamson (Scotland), Craig Evans (Wales) and TMO Romain Poite (France).
What are the line-ups?
Italy: Jacopo Trulla; Luca Sperandio, Juan Ignacio Brex, Carlo Canna, Montanna Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Andrea Lovotti, Luca Bigi, Marco Riccioni, Marco Lazzaroni, David Sisi, Sebastian Negri, Johan Meyer, Michele Lamaro.
Replacements: Gianmarco Lucchesi, Cherif Traore, Giosuè Zilocchi, Niccolò Cannone, Maxime Mbanda, Callum Braley, Federico Mori, Mattia Bellini.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton, Jamison Gibson Park; Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Billy Burns, Keith Earls.