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Farrell's attack-minded Ireland team must be ruthless and clinical against Italy

This exciting Ireland team has plenty of try-scoring potential.

Craig Casey, Andrew Porter, James Hume, and Caelan Doris.
Craig Casey, Andrew Porter, James Hume, and Caelan Doris.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

ANDY FARRELL AND his Ireland team were hoping for a favour from the Scots yesterday. They didn’t get it and so, today is all about getting their own job done.

The task is securing a bonus-point win over Italy [KO 3pm, Virgin Media] in Dublin and racking up as big a score as possible. Ireland might have insisted this week that they will respect the Italians, but they need to go after this one in ruthless and clinical fashion.

The French may well march on to a Grand Slam but Ireland will be hoping that either Wales or England can derail that bid and blow the Guinness Six Nations title race wide open. If Ireland are to come back into trophy contention, every single point today could count.

With that in mind, it helps that Farrell is fielding an Ireland team with lots of scoring potential. 

James Lowe and Mack Hansen in the same back three means two wings who are comfortable at roaming infield to bring others into the game as well as finishing themselves, while debutant Mike Lowry will look to bring the kind of game-breaking moments he has been delivering all season for Ulster.

Joey Carbery will hope his creative skills can come more to the fore against an Italian defence that has improved but is nowhere near as oppressive as the French one that Ireland faced last time out. 

Scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park’s ability to snipe around the rucks should be a prominent feature of the Irish attack, while Craig Casey and Johnny Sexton will be hoping to pile more pain onto the Italians when they get off the bench.

Dan Sheehan and Ryan Baird get their first Six Nations starts for Ireland in the pack and both are unique athletes who can produce linebreaks and offloads as well as working hard around the more traditional forwards’ duties. 

joey-carbery Joey Carbery is at out-half today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Caelan Doris, and Josh van der Flier still in situ up front, this looks like a very dynamic, skillful Ireland pack who will look to play at a tempo Italy struggle to deal with.

Peter O’Mahony has enjoyed playing the kind of rugby that Farrell has been pushing with Ireland and he comes into the team to captain his country for the ninth time, with James Ryan missing due to injury.

Ulster centre James Hume is raring to get a good stint off the bench too, so this Ireland team should be able to produce lots of attacking highlights.

The Italians are staring at a 35th consecutive Six Nations defeat and head coach Kieran Crowley has made three changes from the side that lost to England two weekends ago.

20-year-old Benetton out-half Leonardo Marin starts in the number 12 shirt outside 21-year-old number 10 Paolo Garbisi, while Pierre Bruno comes in on the right wing for Federico Mori, whose defence was exposed by England.

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Back row Giovanni Pettinelli starts in an Italian pack that includes impressive young players like hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi, loosehead Danilo Fischetti, and captain Michele Lamaro but Ireland will fancy their chances of getting some set-piece dominance too.

It’s very hard to look beyond a convincing Ireland win in Dublin. 


  • 15. Mike Lowry
  • 14. Mack Hansen
  • 13. Garry Ringrose
  • 12. Robbie Henshaw
  • 11. James Lowe
  • 10. Joey Carbery
  • 9. Jamison Gibson-Park
  • 1. Andrew Porter
  • 2. Dan Sheehan
  • 3. Tadhg Furlong
  • 4. Tadhg Beirne
  • 5. Ryan Baird
  • 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
  • 7. Josh van der Flier
  • 8. Caelan Doris


  • 16. Rob Herring
  • 17. Dave Kilcoyne
  • 18. Finlay Bealham
  • 19. Kieran Treadwell
  • 20. Jack Conan
  • 21. Craig Casey
  • 22. Johnny Sexton
  • 23. James Hume


  • 15. Edoardo Padovani
  • 14. Pierre Bruno
  • 13. Juan Ignacio Brex 
  • 12. Leonardo Marin
  • 11. Montanna Ioane
  • 10. Paolo Garbisi
  • 9. Stephen Varney
  • 1. Danilo Fischetti
  • 2. Gianmarco Lucchesi
  • 3. Pietro Ceccarelli
  • 4. Niccolò Cannone
  • 5. Federico Ruzza
  • 6. Giovanni Pettinelli
  • 7. Michele Lamaro (captain)
  • 8. Toa Lalafihi


  • 16. Epalahame Faiva
  • 17. Ivan Nemer
  • 18. Tiziano Pasquali
  • 19. David Sisi
  • 20. Manuel Zuliani
  • 21. Braam Steyn
  • 22. Alessandro Fusco
  • 23. Marco Zanon

Referee: Nika Amashukeli [GRU].

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Murray Kinsella

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