Ireland host Italy today in their penultimate 6 Nations fixture of the season.They welcome the Italians looking to secure their first victory of the tournament following losses against England and France and a draw at home to Wales. As it stands Ireland’s single point keeps them above Italy who sit bottom of the table. Despite their hopes of retaining the 6 Nations for a third season being crushed the Irish management team have selected a very strong starting 15.
Joe Schmidt was expected to give some of the younger players a chance today but he has instead opted for the old guard. The only changes from the loss at Twickenham are as follows:
- Stuart McCloskey loses his place in the panel as Jared Payne returns from injury at center.
- Simon Zebo replaces the injured Rob Kearney at full-back.
Ireland certainly have experience on the bench and following his outstanding debut against England Ultan Dillane could well make his second cap for the nation.
Italy have shown that they are slowly becoming a force in European rugby. While they haven’t won a game yet in the tournament they have impressed forcing France to dig in and battle for a 32-21 victory in Rome. Last time out Italy’s discipline cost them as they once again tested a strong Scottish squad that ran out 36-20 winners. Italy however have lost many experienced player through injury this season. The Azzurri travel to Dublin without the experience of hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, replaced by Davide Giazzon, while Guglielmo Palazzani comes in for scrum-half Edoardo Gori. They will also test a new half-back combination today as Edoardo Padovani makes his full debut at out-half in place of Kelly Haimona. As I mentioned the Italians indiscipline has cost them and veteran Martin Castrogiovanni is suspended for today’s clash.
It’s hard to look past an Irish win especially at the Aviva but do not expect the Italians to be a walk in the park. This Irish squad will be tested for the full 80 minutes and a below par performance could provide an upset. The game kicks off at 1:30pm and is refereed by Angus Gardner.