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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
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Ireland's attack on top, Larmour's first cap and barnstorming Bundee

Conor O’Shea’s Italy were disappointing again in Dublin.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Aviva Stadium

IRELAND FOLLOWED UP last weekend’s last-gasp win over France by running in eight tries in a 56-19 victory over Italy in Dublin.

Read our match report here.

Schmidt’s attack opens up

Every bit of analysis of Ireland’s win must come with the qualifier that Italy were poor, but Joe Schmidt will have been content with much of his team’s attacking play.

Jacob Stockdale scores his sides seventh try Jacob Stockdale scored two tries for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Jacob Stockdale’s fine scoring rate continued with a double that brings his tally to six tries in six Tests, while the collective effort from Ireland was much-improved too.

The early attacking shape from Schmidt’s side in phase play was excellent, with decoy options fixing defenders far more convincingly, while the Irish midfield was better at dragging in Italian bodies before releasing the ball to the wide channels.

Conor Murray’s first-half try was a real highlight, with Dan Leavy showing sharp hands to allow the scrum-half to run a loop before Jack Conan delightfully sent Murray scampering away down the left touchline with a deft pass.

Schmidt spoke about Ireland’s “new breed” of forwards before this championship, and this try was pure evidence of their ability.

With Bundee Aki linking far more comfortably with the backline around him, Ireland’s decision-making was far better all round. While Italy were poor, this confidence-boosting victory for Ireland allowed them to gain beneficial cohesion in attack.

Henshaw blow

Joe Schmidt put a positive slant on the shoulder injury to Robbie Henshaw when he spoke post-match, refusing to rule him out, but most of us who watched that game would be surprised to see the centre feature for Ireland against Wales in two weeks.

Robbie Henshaw leaves the field with an injury Henshaw was in pain as he left the pitch. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

He was in severe pain as he left the pitch with his arm in a bandage, and the concern his team-mates showed after the dotted down his second try was telling, with Henshaw now set for a scan on the shoulder injury.

With Garry Ringrose yet to make a return from ankle surgery in early January – when his recovery timeframe was seen as six weeks – it may be that Chris Farrell is in line to take over should Henshaw be ruled out.

Farrell was one of Ireland’s extra bodies at the Aviva Stadium today, providing cover along with Dave Kilcoyne and Jordi Murphy, having made his Test debut last November.

Henshaw’s experience and big-game quality will be sorely missed if he is sidelined, however. Ireland have spoken about their confidence in the depth they have built, but any team would suffer from losing a player of Henshaw’s ability.

Schmidt was positive about Tadhg Furlong post-match, saying his removal was “precautionary” and that Ireland are “hopeful” the tighthead will feature against Wales.

While there still is concern over Furlong, it has to be said that Andrew Porter did well off the Ireland bench in a lengthy 76-minute outing, while John Ryan is also in the tighthead mix.

Jack Conan took a “dunt” on the shoulder and was replaced at half-time, but Schmidt says the number eight should be available for the Wales game.

Larmour gets a first taste

After all the build-up, 20-year-old Jordan Larmour will have been relieved to finally get out onto the pitch and win his first Ireland cap.

Jordan Larmour makes a break Larmour made a thrilling break for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There appeared to be nerves in the Leinster man, who might feel he could have done better defensively on two occasions, but he did get to show his exceptional footwork once in a burst that thrilled the Dublin crowd.

With Ireland now looking towards crucial home ties against Wales and Scotland in rounds three and four, before the trip to Twickenham, it will be interesting to see if Larmour is involved in a matchday 23 again.

The exposure to Six Nations rugby will have given him plenty to work on in the coming weeks, but with Ireland prioritising championship success ahead of development, it would be no surprise if this is the last we see of Larmour in green until the summer tour of Australia.

Bundee’s best outing

The Ireland inside centre had perhaps his best outing yet for Ireland, even when taking into account how poor the Italians were.

Bundee Aki with Leonardo Ghiraldini Bundee Aki was a confidence presence in midfield. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Aki put an early handling error behind him to feature impressively in the Irish attack, as he sat defenders down before passing to far better effect than was the case last weekend in Paris.

And his ability to beat the defenders was more obvious than ever as he scorched through the Italian midfield to draw in the final defender and free Keith Earls to score in the opening half.

That came after Aki’s own try earlier, as he picked a clever line off Conor Murray’s pass to burst over the line from close-range. While there were several loose moments in Aki’s performance, his defence was solid and the attacking progress is promising for Ireland.

With Henshaw set to be sidelined, Aki may have to adjust to a different centre partner for the Wales clash in two weekends’ time, but he is growing at this level.

Italy disappoint again

Though they scored three tries that Schmidt will have been displeased with from an Irish point of view, Italy were largely poor in this game.

Sergio Parisse leaves the field after the game Sergio Parisse leaves the pitch dejected. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Matteo Minozzi is a good find at fullback and outside centre Tommaso Boni had some positive moments, but even as they crossed the whitewash thrice, it was another disappointing Italian display.

Conor O’Shea’s men were never competitive in this game and they followed up last weekend’s hammering at the hands of England by conceding another eight tries to Schmidt’s men.

It is difficult to pick out any notable progress from the Italians – who have won four times in O’Shea’s 18 games in charge – and the likes of Georgia will have watched on in some frustration.

Italian rugby needs the Six Nations if they are to continue the improvement they argue is being made, but the Six Nations needs more from Italy.

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Murray Kinsella

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