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Dublin: 8°C Sunday 18 April 2021


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Good afternoon and welcome along to the Aviva Stadium for The42‘s live coverage of Ireland’s opening World Cup warm-up fixture against Italy, as the preparations for Japan ramp up a couple of notches.

Not only does Joe Schmidt’s selection smack of this being a high-stakes trial game, but the atmosphere around Dublin 4 has a pronounced pre-season feel to it, as the Horse Show revellers and rugby supporters mingle on this early Saturday in August.

This may be the first game of the season, but the pressure is already on many of the 23 selected by Schmidt, as the race to get a seat on the plane intensifies.

It may seem cruel to say this is now make-or-break territory for a plethora of players, but the reality is that World Cup dreams could be sealed or dashed against Conor O’Shea’s side this afternoon.

There are plenty of fascinating selection sub-plots, not least an international debut for Jean Kleyn two days after becoming eligible, while Andy Farrell — standing in for Schmidt this week — wants to build cohesion and momentum.

Stick with us throughout the afternoon as we bring you minute-by-minute coverage. Kick-off is fast approaching at 2pm.

The teams have arrived at the Aviva Stadium, including Joe Schmidt, who is back with the squad after spending time in New Zealand after a family bereavement. 

Joe Schmidt arrives Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jean Kleyn arrives Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Dean Budd arrives Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Conor O'Shea arrives Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

TEAM NEWS: There are no late changes to either side, meaning they’ll line up as announced on Thursday. Only Garry Ringrose survives from Cardiff in March, with Munster duo Jean Kleyn and Mike Haley set for first caps, the latter off the bench.

Jordan Larmour, who scored a sensational hat-trick against Italy in Chicago last November, starts at fullback, while Andrew Conway and Dave Kearney — back in the fold after nearly three years in the wilderness — complete the back three.

In midfield, Ringrose partners Chris Farrell and Luke McGrath and Joey Carbery renew their former Leinster half-back pairing. 

Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter require big games in the front row, Kleyn joins the fit-again Devin Toner in the engine room, and captain Rhys Ruddock, Tommy O’Donnell and Jordi Murphy are in the back row.


15. Jordan Larmour
14. Andrew Conway
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Chris Farrell
11. Dave Kearney
10. Joey Carbery
9. Luke McGrath

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rob Herring
3. Andrew Porter
4. Devin Toner
5. Jean Kleyn
6. Rhys Ruddock (captain)
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. Jordi Murphy.


16. Niall Scannell
17. Cian Healy
18. John Ryan
19. Iain Henderson
20. Tadhg Beirne
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Jack Carty
23. Mike Haley.

TEAM NEWS: As for the visitors, Conor O’Shea has named just three of the side that finished the Six Nations against France: Edoardo Padovani switches to fullback, Angelo Esposito is on the wing and 21-year-old centre Marco Zanon are all retained.

The visitors are captained by Benetton second row Dean Budd, former Leinster out-half Ian McKinley must settle for a place on the bench, while there is a return for Matteo Minozzi after a serious knee injury.


15. Edoardo Padovani
14. Angelo Esposito
13. Tomasso Benvenuti
12. Marco Zanon
11. Giulio Besigni
10. Carlo Canna
9. Giuglielmo Palazzani

1. Nicola Quaglio
2. Olivero Fabiani
3. Marco Riccioni
4. Allessandro Zanni
5. Dean Budd (captain)
6. Giovanni Licata
7. Maxime Mbanda
8. Jimmy Tuivaiti.


16. Federico Zani
17. Andrea Lovotti
18. Simone Ferrari
19. Marco Lazzardni
20. Renato Giammarioli
21. Calum Bradley
22. Ian McKinley
23. Mateo Minozzi.

Time for predictions. Which way do you see this game going?

Poll Results:

Ireland (494)
Italy  (32)

The pre-match warm-ups are well underway. We’re just over half an hour away from kick-off at the Aviva.

Joey Carbery Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Dean Budd, Luke Pearce and Rhys Ruddock during the coin toss Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Andrew Conway ahead of the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There was a huge roar for Jean Kleyn as his name was read out on the PA system here. It will be fascinating to see how the big Munster second row goes alongside Devin Toner today. 

Anyway, the teams are out on the pitch and being introduced to the pre-match dignitaries, including President Michael D Higgins. The sun has come out and it’s a very pleasant Saturday afternoon in Dublin — perfect conditions for a game. 

LATE CHANGE: The Italians have been forced into a very late reshuffle after Marco Zanon pulled up during the warm-up. Matteo Minozzi, in his first game back after a serious knee injury, is promoted off the bench. 

Flag 1Mins

KICK OFF! Carlo Canna gets us underway at the Aviva Stadium and there’s an early touch for Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell. Ireland look cross-field straight away but Andrew Conway isn’t able to gather cleanly in the air. 


2 mins – Early chance for the Ireland front row to lay down a marker at the set-piece and they get a good shove on, with referee Luke Pearce awarding the home side a scrum penalty. Carbery kicks down the touchline.


3 mins – Not a good start for Ireland’s lineout, however, as they’re turned over on halfway. The Italians look to build through the phases, but Chris Farrell makes his presence felt at 12 with a shuddering hit and then Carbery latches onto a loose ball to kick through.

Dave Kearney has the pace to get ahead of the retreating defence but with the line at his mercy, the Leinster winger is unable to gather cleanly as Esposito got back to put him under pressure. 


7 mins – As you would expect, it’s very scrappy from both sides. Ireland enjoying plenty of the ball in the opening exchanges but again their lineout malfunctions, forcing Larmour to scramble back and gather. Farrell’s looping pass right is then wayward and Conway concedes a penalty on the far side.


10 mins – Italy kick down the line and off a solid set-piece footing, look to rumble on towards the whitewash. With a penalty advantage, Canna kicks cross-field where Larmour just does enough in an aerial battle with Esposito.

Flag 12Mins

12 mins — TRY! Ireland 0-5 Italy (Mbanda)

Well, that was all too easy. The visitors pitched tent inside the Ireland 22, winning a number of penalties, and the pressure eventually pays off as Mbanda picks at the base of the ruck and dives over the line from close-range. Canna missed the conversion. 


15 mins – Better from Schmidt’s men. Carbery’s delicious grubber through earns Ireland an attacking lineout on this near side. Herring hits Ruddock and Farrell carries up the middle. There’s not a lot happening as Larmour and then Carbery try and jink their way through, before Pearce’s arm is outstretched. 


17 mins – Carbery kicks for the corner and this is prime attacking position for Ireland.

Flag 18Mins

18 mins — TRY! Ireland 7-5 Italy (Carbery)

And there it is! Ireland are stopped short twice on the line but when McGrath fires it left, Farrell pulls it back beautifully for Carbery to race under the posts. Beautiful hands from the Munster centre and excellent variation from Schmidt’s side in the red zone. 


19 mins – Carbery, who is really pulling the strings now, adds the extras but Ireland have been forced into an early change as Rob Herring trudges off. One can only assume the Ulster hooker is struggling in some way, but not exactly sure what happened to him. Anyway, Niall Scannell is on. 


20 mins – Out of nothing, Tommaso Benvenuti breaks through midfield and streaks clear. Carbery comes across to cover but the Italians have front-foot ball and they’re in again down this near side, as Bisegni grubbers between Kleyn and Larmour…


22 mins — TRY! Ireland 7-10 Italy (Canna)

And they’re over! Canna latches onto the grubber through to get there ahead of Ruddock and while it was a very tight call as to whether the Italy out-half was offside when the ball was kicked, the officials award the try. Again, that was far too easy. 


24 mins — Biggest cheer of the afternoon so far as Ian McKinley — the former Leinster out-half — comes on for the unfortunate Benvenuti, who hobbles down the tunnel. 

McKinley, on for his ninth cap, has played against his former province down the road at the RDS and Ireland in Chicago and Rome, but this is his first appearance at the Aviva. He deservedly got a huge ovation. 


28 mins — Ireland look to build through the phases now and they win a penalty, which Carbery again kicks to the corner.

Flag 29Mins

29 mins — TRY! Ireland 14-10 Italy (Kearney)

Simple. Ireland move it with pace and precision, which creates the space out left for Kearney to dive over in the corner. Excellent hands there again from Ruddock and Larmour delivered the final pass for his Leinster team-mate. That’s Kearney’s first international try since February 2016. Carbery nails the touchline conversion. 


31 mins – From a signature Ireland move off the lineout for that Kearney try, Carbery — who looks so, so sharp — again has the Aviva purring. The Munster 10 dinks a perfectly-weighted kick out towards Kearney, who gathers on the run and kicks downfield.

Minozzi does well to win the foot-race back but he is tackled by Kearney and then Ringrose completes the job to win the five-metre attacking scrum. A big three minutes for Kearney.


Carbery is making a very strong case for the 10 jersey in Japan.

Joey Carbery celebrates scoring a try with Jordan Larmour and Jordi Murphy Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO


35 mins – Ireland enjoying the upper-hand at the set-piece and we’ve had a number of scrums deep inside Italy territory now. The referee warns Dean Budd about his side’s discipline and Ruddock calls for another reset.  


36 mins — TRY! Ireland 19-10 Italy (Conway)

The pressure eventually tells and Ireland are over for their third try. The forwards hammer away around the fringes, punching holes in this Italian defence, before the backs finish it off. Kleyn and Toner carry close to the line and then Larmour again provides the assist for Conway in the far corner this time. Carbery is unable to make it three from three.

Flag 40Mins

Half-time! Ireland 19-10 Italy 

And that’s half-time. After a scrappy start, Ireland have pulled away through three first-half tries. Joey Carbery has been world-class in the pivot position, pulling the strings to stake his claim for the 10 jersey.

Jordan Larmour, Chris Farrell, Andrew Conway and Dave Kearney have all been heavily involved, while Kleyn and captain Ruddock are standouts in the pack so far. 


40 mins – The teams are back out for the second half. Ireland have made a change at the break, with Jack McGrath replaced by Munster’s John Ryan. It will be interesting to see if he or Porter pack down at loosehead in this second 40.


43 mins – Ireland are straight back into it and Ringrose makes a trademark break on halfway, before releasing Luke McGrath on his inside shoulder. The scrum-half stumbles as he looks to dart for the line, but feeds Ringrose again as Scannell then carries up to the line. Ireland recycle and Carbery again links with the lively Larmour.

Flag 45Mins

44 mins — TRY! Ireland 24-10 Italy (Murphy)

And that’s number four. Carbery kicks the penalty to touch, Scannell’s throw is accurate and the maul rumbles on towards the line, allowing Murphy to fall over the whitewash. Carbery tugs his conversion attempt. 


49 mins – This is very worrying. Joey Carbery gets his ankle trapped under a heap of bodies and the Munster 10 looks in some discomfort. He needs to be carted off and Connacht’s Jack Carty is on in his place. Let’s hope it’s nothing too serious!


53 mins – The atmosphere has been sucked out of the Aviva now after Carbery’s injury. Italy have made a raft of changes too. 


56 mins – Carty, the man to benefit from Carbery’s misfortune, sends a beautiful kick deep into Italian territory. Meanwhile, McGrath and Toner make way for Marmion and Henderson. 


59 mins – Mike Haley is on for his debut. Conway has gone off for treatment on a cut. 


60 mins – Schmidt makes another change, and Beirne is getting his time in the back row. Ruddock makes way. 


63 mins – Beirne is on the pitch no more than 20 seconds and he wins a turnover. Standard from the Munster man. 

Flag 63Mins

63 mins — TRY! Ireland 29-10 Italy (Marmion)

The crowd have been lifted from their mid-afternoon stupor. McKinley’s attempted clearance is charged down by Marmion and the Connacht nine goes over for Ireland’s fifth try. Carty’s conversion comes back off the post. 


67 mins – Italy think they’re over in the corner but the touch judge says the lineout didn’t go five metres and the score is chalked off.


70 mins – Porter makes way for Cian Healy as we head into the final 10 minutes.


79 mins – As the clock ticks towards 80, the crowd start to head for the exits. Who are your winners and losers from today’s game?


80 mins – Ireland kick for the corner one final time. Probing for a sixth try to round off this win. 


Well that second half was not a great spectacle to say the least but Schmidt’s Ireland get up and running with a five-try win. Plenty of positives to take from a decent work-out, but of chief concern will be the fitness of Joey Carbery.


We await an injury update on Carbery with bated breath. Plenty of reaction to come from the Aviva throughout the afternoon, but until next time, goodbye!

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey


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