HomeWorldIreland v Italy: Match preview & BBC coverage

Ireland v Italy: Match preview & BBC coverage

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Ireland fly-half Jack Crowley impressed on his first Six Nations start in Marseille last week
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Sunday, 11 February Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Sounds, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra & BBC Radio Ulster; live text updates and highlights on BBC Sport website and app.

Ireland’s quest for back-to-back Grand Slams continues against an improving Italy at Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

The Irish began their Six Nations title defence in spectacular fashion with their biggest ever away win over France in the tournament opener.

Italy led England at the break in Rome but faded in the second half as they fell to a narrow three-point defeat.

The visitors have lost their past 14 Tests against Ireland and have never won a Six Nations match in Dublin.

Team news

Ireland: Head coach Andy Farrell makes six changes, as captain Peter O’Mahony is replaced by Ryan Baird. Caelan Doris takes the armband, becoming the 110th man to lead out the Irish in Test rugby.

Craig Casey starts at scrum-half ahead of Jamison Gibson-Park, while Stuart McCloskey comes in for Bundee Aki at inside centre. Jack Conan starts at number eight, James Ryan replaces Tadhg Beirne in the second row and Finlay Bealham starts at tight-head prop instead of Tadhg Furlong.

Italy: The Azzurri are without influential flanker Sebastian Negri because of the rib injury he suffered against England while Lorenzo Cannone is also missing with a knee issue. Alessandro Izekor and Manuel Zuliani come into the back row and captain Michele Lamaro moves to number eight.

Ange Capuozzo returns from illness at full-back in place of Tommaso Allan and Stephen Varney replaces Alessandro Garbisi at scrum-half.

Commentator’s notes

Andrew Cotter: There can be no match in the Six Nations with greater certainty about the outcome than Ireland at home against Italy but, having pushed England close, it will be fascinating to see how the Azzurri deal with one of the most daunting challenges in the game.

Although it might be less daunting on Sunday, since Ireland feel such comfort with their squad that they are able to give O’Mahony, Aki, Beirne and Furlong the weekend off.

For Italy, the ever dangerous Capuozzo returns but, even with big-name Irish absentees, it will need far more than his magic alone to give Ireland a fright in Dublin.

View from both camps

Ireland assistant coach Mike Catt: “For Italy to turn around and put in a performance like that against a good England side was very impressive. They are obviously trying to impress the new coach [Gonzalo Quesada] as well.

“I think with Quesada they’ll tighten things up a little bit but they caused England some serious problems by scoring some very, very good tries.

“It’s a team that really work hard for each other, especially defensively. Their work-rate off the ball is huge. We need to make sure we do our bits and pieces right to try and break that down.”

Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada: “Two elements will be missing in the forward department compared to the previous match, but we have a young group that wants to emerge.

“In Dublin the focus will be on our performance and try to take a new step in our growth against one of the strongest teams in the world.

“We have a tough game ahead and it will be crucial to be able to stay lucid throughout the game.”

Line-ups

Ireland: 15-Keenan; 14-Nash, 13-Henshaw, 12-McCloskey, 11-Lowe; 10-Crowley, 9-Casey; 1-Porter, 2-Sheehan, 3-Bealham, 4-McCarthy, 5-Ryan, 6-Baird, 7-Doris (capt), 8-Conan.

Replacements: 16-Kelleher, 17-Loughman, 18-O’Toole, 19-Henderson, 20-Van der Flier, 21-Gibson-Park, 22-Byrne, 23-Larmour.

Italy: 15-Capuozzo; 14-Pani, 13-Brex, 12-Menoncello, 11-Ioane; 10-Garbisi, 9-Varney; 1-Fischetti, 2-Lucchesi, 3-Ceccarelli, 4-Cannone, 5-Ruzza, 6-Izekor, 7-Zuliani, 8-Lamaro (capt).

Replacements: 16-Nicotera, 17-Spagnolo, 18-Zilocchi, 19-Zambonin, 20-Vincent, 21-Page-Relo, 22-Allan, 23-Mori.

Ireland are on a record 16-match winning run on home soil. They've also scored four or more tries in 12 of those fixtures

Match facts

Head-to-head

  • Ireland have won 32 of their 36 clashes with Italy, losing the other four.
  • Only one of those defeats was in the Six Nations, with the Italians winning 22-15 in Rome in 2013.

Ireland

  • Ireland have won 18 of their past 19 Test matches.
  • They’ve also won nine consecutive fixtures in this tournament, their best run in Five or Six Nations history.

Italy

  • Italy have lost 42 of their past 43 Six Nations fixtures, including the past six in a row.
  • However, their last two victories in this tournament have both come on the road; a memorable 22-21 win versus Wales two years ago and a 22-19 triumph over Scotland at Murrayfield in 2015.

Match officials

Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)

Touch judges: Mathieu Reynal (France) & Luc Ramos (France)

TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

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