Italy are searching for their first win over Ireland since the 2013 Six Nations
Italy v Ireland is not quite the David v Goliath it used to be. Italy are a new beast in this year’s competition but Ireland are on the hunt for a Grand Slam and it is difficult to imagine them not taking the title.
The Azzurri impressed in round one, nearly defeating defending champions France, but their performance against England was lacklustre. They came alive in the second half, winning the second 40 at Twickenham. But they lacked a punch to get their first ever win over England.
Ireland have had a very different tournament. They demolished Wales in Cardiff and bagged a bonus-point against France in what many are calling the best Six Nations match ever.
They are on track for their first Grand Slam and first Six Nations title since 2018. It would be Andy Farrell’s first Six Nations title as head coach with the team after taking over from Joe Schmidt after the 2019 World Cup.
In the past Ireland have been guilty of peaking in their performances a year before a World Cup. Some thought they were doing so again with momentous wins over New Zealand and South Africa in 2022. But Farrell’s team have brought their form into 2023 and it will take a near perfect performance from their opposition to topple them.
And while Italy may go into the match as underdogs, statistics prove it is not impossible for them to get a win. The two teams have played one another 34 times with Italy winning on four occasions. The last time they managed to bag a victory was in the 2013 Six Nations with a 22-15 result, the other wins came in the 1990s.
What is the team news for Italy v Ireland?
Italy welcome Paolo Garbisi back to the squad as he has recovered from injury. Garbisi has slotted straight into the starting XV, pushing Tommaso Allan to the bench.
Pierre Bruno will start on the wing after being benched for Italy’s clash against England and Tommaso Menoncello will begin at inside centre. In the forwards there is just one change from their last outing with Simone Ferrari starting at prop ahead of Marco Riccioni.
Jake Polledri and David Sisi are out with injury.
Andy Farrell has made six changes to Ireland’s starting XV. They will be without captain Johnny Sexton, who is rehabbing an injury, and so James Ryan will skipper the side. With Sexton out, Ross Byrne starts at fly-half and Craig Casey is in line to make his first Ireland start at scrum-half.
Bundee Aki comes in at centre and will partner Garry Ringrose who is set to win his 50th cap.
Ronan Kelleher starts at hooker, Iain Henderson is in at lock and Jack Conan comes in at No 8. Dan Sheehan is back in the squad and starts from the bench.
In terms of injuries, Tadhg Beirne and Joe McCarthy have both been ruled out of the rest of the competition with an ankle injury. Jamison Gibson Park, Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw are also still out with injury. Rob Herring is also going through his return to play protocols after failing a head injury assessment against France in the last round.
What have the coaches said?
Italy head coach Kieran Crowley said: “Every game has a different story. We will face Ireland aware of what we did against France and England with the aim of improving in some areas that will make us more competitive.
“It will be a tough game against the number one team in the world and we too can’t wait to face them.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said: “They (Ross Byrne and Craig Casey) have earned the right to start and from what we have seen so far, it’s only a few days to the game I know, but from what we have seen so far, it’s been a good start to the week,” Farrell said.
“Preparation has been great and yeah, they seem ready for it.”
Any interesting statistics for Italy v Ireland?
- Italy and Ireland have contested 34 matches between them and Italy have only won four games. In the Six Nations era Italy have only managed to defeat Ireland once, in the 2013 Six Nations.
- Only two players have assisted in more than one try this Six Nations. Ireland’s Finlay Bealham has two assists and Scotland’s Finn Russell has three.
- Italy beat the most defenders than they ever have (41) in a Six Nations game against England, according to Opta.
- Another Opta stat reinforces full-back Ange Capuozzo’s good form. He beat 14 defenders against England in round two, the second highest tally ever in the Six Nations.
- Paolo Garbisi has been named in the Italy matchday squad for the first time since November 2022. He was named on the bench against South Africa in the autumn and has not featured yet in the 2023 Six Nations due to injury.
What time does it kick-off and is it on TV?
Read more: How to watch the Six Nations from anywhere
The match will kick-off at 2.15pm GMT on Saturday, 25 February and will be available for fans in the UK to watch on ITV 1. Coverage will begin from 1.25pm.
The fixture will also be aired on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra from 2.15pm.
Mike Adamson (SRU) will take charge of the match with assistants Wayne Barnes (RFU) and Craig Evans (WRU). The television match official will be Marius Jonker (SARU).
Related: Six Nations referees
What are the line-ups?
Italy: Ange Capuozzo, Edoardo Padovani, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Pierre Bruno; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari, Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro, Lorenzo Cannone.
Replacements: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Marco Riccioni, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Alessandro Fusco, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Allan
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Craig Casey; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, James Ryan (captain), Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O’Toole, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Stuart McCloskey
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