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Good afternoon and welcome to our liveblog for this delayed round four fixture of the 2020 Six Nations championship between Ireland and Italy.

With two games remaining in the campaign, Ireland still have a chance of winning the tournament, either by posting two bonus point victories against Italy today and then France next Saturday, or else by edging England out on points difference.

In any case, they are big favourites to win today, having lost just once to the Italians in this championship since they came into the tournament, 20 years ago.

Kick-off is at 3.30pm, so get settled in.

While the temptation will be there for Ireland to be risk-takers from the start, veterans of this fixture have cautioned against doing so. Here’s Rob Kearney from his interview with The42 earlier today. “The secret to beating Italy comprehensively is when you play to the full 80 minutes,” said Kearney. “This perception that if you start brightly then you can wipe them away – look that never happens. It always takes 50, 60 minutes before you finally start to break them down. The longer you allow them into a game, the more belief they will get.

“So it will be tougher without a crowd for us, too – because that kind of thing always favours the underdogs, home advantage has kind of been taken away from us to an extent.”

And this is what John Hayes had to say about the Irish game-plan on Thursday. “Look, it’s exciting times,” said the Bull, “because you can just imagine the excitement with all those new young players getting their first caps, they’re going to bring a new enthusiasm. Hopefully they will hit the ground running.

“But it won’t be easy. You don’t want to start chasing it from the off, but they definitely will go after a big scoreline at some stage because they know they have to.”

 

Here are the teams.

Ireland:

15. Jacob Stockdale
14. Andrew Conway
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Hugo Keenan
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rob Herring
3. Andrew Porter
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. James Ryan
6. Caelan Doris
7. Will Connors
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Dave Heffernan
17. Ed Byrne
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Peter O’Mahony
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Robbie Henshaw

Italy:

15. Jayden Hayward
14. Edoardo Padovani
13. Luca Morisi
12. Carlo Canna
11. Mattia Bellini
10. Paolo Garbisi
9. Marcello Violi

1. Danilo Fischetti
2. Luca Bigi (captain)
3. Giosue Zilocchi
4. Marco Lazzaroni
5. Niccolo Cannone
6. Sebastian Negri
7. Abraham Steyn
8. Jake Polledri

Replacements:

16. Gianmarco Lucchesi
17. Simone Ferrari
18. Pietro Ceccarelli
19. David Sisi
20. Johan Meyer
21. Maxime Mbanda
22. Callum Braley
23. Federico Mori

Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU).

Our man, Murray Kinsella, will be reporting from the Aviva this afternoon, giving you his expert opinion in his post-match report before conducting interviews with the Ireland coach and players afterwards. 

Just over 20 minutes to go now …

johnny-sexton-with-matthew-carley-and-luca-bigi-at-the-coin-toss Johnny Sexton with Matthew Carley and Luca Bigi at the coin toss. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There are six changes to the Ireland side that last played in February, losing 24-12 to England. A lot of focus will be on Hugo Keenan who makes his Test debut on the wing. He has already been active in the pre-match warm up.

hugo-keenan-during-the-warm-up Hugo Keenan practices his catching during the warm up. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Under 10 minutes to go now …

And we are off

Two early tests for Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Conway under the high ball. Both deal with the questions easily enough.

Yellow card for Conor Murray, Ireland down to 14 men.

Penalty for Italy, Sebastian Negri with a great break to set up the field position, Murray penalised, Paolo Garbisi with the kick

Ireland 0-3 Italy

Penalty for Ireland, Sexton is going for the corner

TRY Ireland 5- 3 Italy Ireland drive off the line-out, camp on the Italian line and get across via CJ Stander, his 11th try for Ireland

IRELAND 7-3 ITALY - Sexton with the conversion

Garry Ringrose has gone to scrum half as Murray sits out the ten minutes in the bin.

 Ireland 7-3 Italy Great moment for the Ireland front-row, Cian Healy winning a scrum penalty

Ireland 10-3 Italy  Penalty for Ireland, Sexton kicking it, a good reaction to Murray’s sin-binning

Great clearing kick by Sexton 

Ireland 10-3 Italy

Ireland 10-3 Italy

Healy steals possession, Doris carries it into the Italy 22 but from a good attacking opportunity, Johnny Sexton spills possession. In the meantime, Conor Murray is back on the field

Ireland 10-3 Italy 

Bundee Aki harshly penalised for an illegal tackle. Italy kick for territory, play moving into the Ireland 22

Ireland 10-3 Italy

Italy lose possession when Danilo Fischetti goes off his feet, decent work by Will Connors

Here is the image of CJ Stander’s try, Irleand’s opening score of the game.

cj-stander-scores-the-opening-try Stander scores Ireland's opening try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland 10-3 Italy

Carlo Canna does superbly well to rob possession off Bundee Aki, winning a penalty for the Italians, who win the subsequent line-out but then cough up possession, when Andrew Porter retrieves the ball 

Ireland 10-3 Italy

Good defending from Italy forces Ringrose to chip to touch, Beirne steals line-out, Ireland win subsequent penalty, which Sexton kicks to the corner. Good attacking opportunity for Ireland 

But Ireland lose the ball in contact, Edoardo Padovani hoofs the ball downfield

Ireland 10-3 Italy, 27 minutes 

Garry Ringrose receiving attention for what appears to be a shoulder injury, Henshaw is stripped and ready to come in

Ireland 10-3 Italy, 29 minutes

So it was a knee to the chin which forced Ringrose off – not the shoulder injury as earlier reported. He is off the field for a HIA. Ireland, meanwhile, have won a penalty and Sexton is kicking to the corner

TRY IRELAND

Ireland 15-3 Italy

Ryan collects the line-out; maul formed, deep inside the Italy 22, ball whipped out to Hugo Keenan who marks his debut with a try

Ireland 17-3 Italy

Sexton adds the conversion, a brilliant kick from the touchline – but a further word has to go to Keenan for his finish. He showed great footwork and strength to hold off two Italians before scoring

TRY IRELAND – Hugo Keenan, 22-3

Ireland 17-3 Italy, 32 minutes

Hugo Keenan’s second try is being checked by the TMO 

Ireland 17-3 Italy

Try disallowed as James Ryan impedes Marco Lazzaroni as the Italian lock tried to tackle Jacob Stockdale as he counter-attacked – so Keenan’s second try gets wiped out. Italy now on the charge in the Ireland 22

Ireland 22-3 Italy, 35 minutes

Ireland’s defence holding firm as Italy creep forward in the 22.

Then super counter-attack sees Murray kick to corner, Keenan collect and score

Ireland 24-3 Italy 

Sexton with the conversion – a superb kick ….

Keenan’s try was equally impressive, credit Murray for his kick, Doris for retrieving possession initially, Aki for his involvement and Keenan for his pace and then coolness under pressure to score

Ireland 24-3 Italy, 39 minutes

Stockdale is moving quicker than gossip through a small town ….. looking really threatening from full-back

HALF TIME IRELAND 24-3 ITALY

Two tries from Hugo Keenan on his debut, another from CJ Stander and a superb display from Will Connors has turned that half into a brilliant one from Andy Farrell’s perspective. Impressive at the breakdown – especially Doris, Connor and Andrew Porter – Ireland are also looking dangerous in open play. Jacob Stockdale looking sharp while Keenan’s finishing – he also had a try disallowed – has more than justified his selection

Ireland 24-3 Italy, half-time

This picture will soon be hanging on the Keenan wall – as he celebrates his first international try.

hugo-keenan-scores-a-try-despite-edoardo-padovani Keenan gets his first international try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Half-time, Ireland 24-3 Italy

Ireland in absolute control; dominant at the breakdown; no box-kicking, great counter-attacking and this boy having an absolute dream of a debut.

Second half underway, Ireland 24-3 ahead, and they need to think about putting up a serious score because if Ireland win both games, with one bonus point, the title will be decided by points difference.

Getting a bonus point in Paris will be seriously difficult – whereas getting a really big score against Italy from this point, is definitely within their grasp. 

They need to set England a huge target when Eddie Jones’ side go to Rome next Saturday.

Ireland 24-3 Italy, 41 minutes … scrum to Italy after Andrew Conway knocks on at half-way. Henshaw still on for Ringrose who did pass his HIA but has not returned to the field

Ireland 24-3 Italy, 44 minutes

Great kick from Sexton puts the Italians on the back-foot.  Tadhg Beirne back on his feet after receiving treatment for a shoulder injury.

johnny-sexton-celebrates-with-hugo-keenan-after-scoring-a-second-try Johnny Sexton celebrates with Hugo Keenan after he gets his second try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland 24-3 Italy

Brilliant take from Hugo Keenan under the high ball. Italy about to make four changes, replacing their entire front row

Ireland 24-3 Italy, 48 minutes 

Scrappy second half so far, Ireland need to get points on the board and secure that bonus point.

Here is Keenan’s second try, Ireland’s third of the day.

Ireland 24-3 Italy, 51 minutes

Dave Heffernan coming on for Ireland to win his second cap. Rob Herring put in a decent shift.

Penalty Italy, they go to the corner.

Ireland 24-3 Italy, 52 minutes

Another penalty to Italy, Cian Healy penalised for coming in from the side. Italians go to the corner again. Each team have conceded seven penalties thus far.

Ireland 24-12 Italy, 55 minutes

Try Italy. Sexton picked off by Edoardo Padovani. Conversion added.

Ireland not playing well in second half although Will Connors is having a superb debut.

will-connors-and-james-ryan Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland 24-10 Italy, 56 minutes

Ed Byrne is on to make his international debut

Ireland 24-10 Italy, 59 minutes

James Ryan receiving attention for a shoulder injury – just as Ireland win a penalty and kick to the corner

Ireland 29-10 Italy, 60 minutes

Another penalty to Ireland, another kick to the corner. Doris gathers, Connors scores on his debut – great maul

TRY IRELAND 

Will Connors, 29-10 now

TRY Ireland 36-10 Italy, 65 minutes

So Will Connors try caps off a superb debut, Sexton kicks the conversion, Ireland have a bonus point and Sexton adds on another try a few minutes later.

And they really need to start adding points if they are to have any chance of winning this championship on points differential.

England have a points differential of plus 15, Ireland’s is currently plus 31. Easy to see England putting up a big score against Italy; not so easy to see Ireland getting a bonus point victory in Paris

IRELAND 36-10 ITALY, 67 minutes

Sexton misses the conversion, every points counts here in the race to the championship. 

Jamison Gibson Park is on for Murray to make his Test debut 

 TRY IRELAND BUNDEE AKI, 69 MINUTES, Ireland 41-10 Italy

Ireland 43-10 Italy, 69 minutes

Sexton adds the conversion; the earlier try from Aki owed so much to Peter O’Mahony – who had just come on to replace Caelan Doris. O’Mahony’s pass left Aki with a race to the line. He won that race. Ireland looking for more points here.

Sexton has gone off; Ross Byrne on

Ireland 43-10 Italy, 76 minutes

Ireland on the attack – but Italy secure a penalty at the breakdown.

will-connors-scores-his-first-try Will Connors scores his try on debut. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ireland 43-10 Italy, 77 minutes

Will Connors is named man of the match, 18 tackles, nine carries and one try

Ireland win a penalty off a counter ruck, Byrne kicks to the corner, 90 seconds left

Into the last minute, Ireland 43-10 clear, line-out five metres from the Italian line

TRY IRELAND

Dave Heffernan with the try, first game for Ireland in four years, Ross Byrne with conversion, Ireland have reached the half century – Ireland have one last chance to get more points 50-10

FULL-TIME Ireland 50-17 Italy

Ireland concede last minute try. 

That last minute score for Italy could come back to haunt Ireland next week.

Ireland 50-17 Italy

Seven tries for Ireland and a bonus point victory – their points difference is now plus 38, England’s is plus 15.

If Ireland beat France with a bonus point next week then they are champions, irrespective of what happens between England and Italy in Rome. 

Otherwise, to win the championship, Ireland need to have a better scoring difference than England, who almost certainly will defeat the Italians by a sizeable score.

That last minute try that Ireland conceded today could come back to haunt them next Saturday.

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Garry Doyle

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