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As it happened: Italy v Ireland, Six Nations Championship

Ireland tok on Italy this afternoon in Rome in round three of this year’s Six Nations.

Image : Tommy Dickson/INPHO
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Hello and welcome to this afternoon’s liveblog. Already it is a must-win game for Andy Farrell. With two defeats on the spin, the Ireland coach cannot afford a third straight defeat, especially as the Italians are on a 29-game losing streak in this competition with questions about their future continually being raised.

Despite shipping heavy defeats to France and England in their opening two games in this championship, Italy did manage to deliver some decent passages of play on each occasion. Their defending, however, was abysmal.

The same could be said of Ireland’s attack in the opening two rounds – two tries a paltry return for a team who had genuine title aspirations when this tournament began.

It all kicks off in under an hour. So stay with us as we keep you posted on all the pre-game news.

The 42′s rugby correspondent, Murray Kinsella, previewed the game earlier today, concluding. This Italy game usually represents the chance for Ireland to go up a few more gears in attack, particularly with sunshine and warm weather forecast. Anything else and worries about this Ireland set-up will abound. 

Italy:

15. Jacopo Trulla
14. Luca Sperandio
13. Juan Ignacio Brex
12. Carlo Canna
11. Monty Ioane
10. Paolo Garbisi
9. Stephen Varney

1. Andrea Lovotti
2. Luca Bigi (captain)
3. Marco Riccioni
4. Marco Lazzaroni
5. David Sisi
6. Sebastian Negri
7. Johan Meyer
8. Michele Lamaro

Replacements:

16. Gianmarco Lucchesi
17. Cherif Traore
18. Giosue Zilocchi
19. Niccolò Cannone
20. Maxime Mbanda
21. Callum Braley
22. Federico Mori
23. Mattia Bellini

Ireland:

15. Hugo Keenan
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Ronan Kelleher
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Tadhg Beirne
7. Will Connors
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Rob Herring
17. Cian Healy
18. Andrew Porter
19. Ryan Baird
20. Jack Conan
21. Craig Casey
22. Billy Burns
23. Keith Earls 

Referee: Mathieu Raynal [FFR]
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson [SRU] and Craig Evans [WRU]
TMO: Romain Poite [FFR].

This is a big day for Robbie Henshaw, the Westmeath man, who wins his 50th cap today.

“I’m just enjoying having a run of games,” Henshaw said. ”The frustration of being fit for the first couple of games in a Six Nations and then having my campaign ending early — that’s kind of hindered me in progressing to that top level of my performance.

robbie-henshaw Henshaw in training earlier this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Is this the best I’ve played? I’m not sure. I had some great years when I first came on the scene. But enjoying it is a big thing for me. Always striving to improve. You never have the perfect game, so I’m just trying to keep improving and keep positive.”

The Italian sunshine should help his mood. It was 17 degrees in Rome yesterday as they trained in the Olympic Stadium.

a-view-of-training Source: IRFU/Ryan Bailey/INPHO

Some stats to chew on with your cuppa.

1: Italy  have conceded 13 tries and 91 points in their two games so far.

2: They have not won a Six Nations game since 2015.

3: They have won the wooden spoon 15 times since they entered the competition in 2000.

4: Numbers 9 to 15 are all Leinster players – the first time in 90 years that Ireland’s entire back line has come from the province.

johnny-sexton-with-mathieu-raynal-and-luca-bigi-at-the-coin-toss Johnny Sexton with Referee Mathieu Raynal and Luca Bigi of Italy at the coin toss. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Andy Farrell has not lost faith in this Irish side. Quite the opposite in fact, however he has made it clear what is needed for them to turn pressure into points.

“There’s quite a lot right within our game but it all comes down to having a clinical edge at this level, right at the top,” he said. “Our fight and want and will to impose ourselves against the opposition has been top-class.

“The finishing clinical edge is always the missing ingredient of any team that wants to be world-class, so that’s what we are striving for and hopefully we can make a jump in that direction this weekend.”

jack-conan-during-the-warm-up Ireland's Jack Conan enjoys the Rome sunshine. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Robbie Henshaw leads Ireland out on his 50th cap while this picture of Johnny Sexton (below) is superbly captured.

johnny-sexton-during-the-warm-up In sunshine and in shadow: Sexton in Rome. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Italy enter the field – led by Carlo Canna, who like Henshaw, wins his 50th cap today.

First impressions, the Italians are better singers.

marco-riccioni-during-the-warm-up Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Second impressions, they are not.

1 minute penalty to Italy. Paolo Garbisi will kick to the corner. Ireland defending a line-out inside their own 22.

PENALTY ITALY. Italy 3-0 Ireland

Paolo Garbisi puts it over, three minutes played, three points on the board for Italy.

4 minutes penalty to Ireland, the Italians are offside and Sexton is lining up a kick at the posts

PENALTY IRELAND (JOHNNY SEXTON) Italy 3-3 Ireland

The Ireland captain puts it over from a tricky enough angle. Six minutes played.

7 minutes Ireland force a turnover at the ruck, Ronan Kelleher the one credited for it. They win a penalty and Sexton kicks it into the Italian 22.

Delete that fact. Henderson appeared to have touched the ball down perfectly – but it has not been referred upstairs. Ireland, meanwhile, are on the attack.

Italy 3-10 Ireland, 11 minutes played

So try number nine for Ringrose in an Ireland shirt. 

Persistent pressure, and good attempts from Beirne and Stander, preceded the ball landing in Ringrose’s hands. Sizing up his surroundings, he spotted a gap and exploited it. Sexton adds the conversion and Ireland are up and running.

15 minutes Poor kick from James Lowe is followed by a decent break by Jamison Gibson-Park. Ireland have possession inside the Italian half, decent carries by Connors and Lowe, Henshaw offloads to Sexton and Ireland win a penalty.

Gibson-Park taps and goes. He runs into trouble, though. The lack of support leaves him isolated. Italy win a penalty.

So Ireland have taken two shots at goal inside the first quarter, choosing to take kickable opportunities and build some scoreboard pressure. They look on a completely different level to Italy. It isn’t a question of whether they’ll win but by how much.

20 minutes Strong carries from Stander and Ringrose lead nowhere. Ringrose penalised for not releasing.

21 minutes Italy 3-13 Ireland

Penalty to Italy. Some fine phase-building play from Italy leads to it, with Andrea Lovotti,
Luca Bigi, Sebastian Negri and Johan Meyer all carrying well. They opt to go to the corner.

23 minutes Bisi’s throw is poor, Beirne nearly steals it but the ball goes forward and Italy have a five-metre scrum. Still 13-3 to Ireland. 

26 minutes - 

Ireland win a scrum penalty and Dave Kilcoyne knows he will be bought a few pints back at the team hotel tonight. Great work from the Munster loosehead.

Three minutes it took for that scrum. You won’t win new fans to the sport with that kind of nonsense.

29 minutes – Italy build up the phases, nine of them in all but Ireland force a turnover after fine work from Connors. Penalty, Ireland. Pressure released.  

TRY IRELAND HUGO KEENAN

Beirne wins the lineout, Gibson-Park snipes down the blindside off the maul, Sexton and Larmour make ground down the right and then the ball is recycled with Ringrose setting up Keenan, who runs a superb line to score.

32 minutes Italy 3-20 Ireland

Sexton adds the conversion – his fourth kick of the day from four attempts – and Ireland are looking comfortable here.

36 minutes Italy 3-27 Ireland

Some superb handling from Ronan Kelleher gives Sexton the chance to take the ball right to the line; Larmour takes over and his offload gives Connors the chance to bring it home. A fine try. Sexton gets his fifth kick of the day. Yes, Italy are awful defensively but Ireland are playing well here.

39 minutes – Italy 3-27 Ireland

Italy have a free kick inside the Ireland 22 after winning an earlier penalty when Dave Kilcoyne was ruled offside. Italy take the scrum as the clock enters the red.

 

40 minutes Italy 10-27 Ireland

Garbisi is superb in his creation of that Italian try, breaking through the Irish defence before he offloads to Johan Meyer, who touches down. Ireland had earlier defended the maul well.

Garbisi adds the extras.

HALF-TIME Italy 10-27 Ireland

Decent performance from Ireland, three tries to one. They have plenty to improve on, still and have drifted out of the game on different occasions. Still, it will be a major surprise if they don’t leave Rome with a bonus-point victory. Expect them to pass the half century mark.

42 minutes TRY IRELAND CJ STANDER

Ryan claims Kelleher’s throw, 10 metres from the Italian line, Connors carries, Furlong takes it at pace and the play moves to within two metres of the Italian posts. Furlong carries for a second time and dents a giant hole in the Italy defence. CJ Stander follows up to score.

43 minutes Italy 10-34 Ireland

Sexton adds the extras and Ireland have a bonus point as well as a 24-point lead.

45 minutes

Three changes for Italy. Gianmarco Lucchesi, Giosue Zilocchi and Niccolò Cannone come in. Andrea Lovotti, Marco Riccioni and Marco Lazzaroni head for the bench.

46 minutes 

Porter is coming in for Furlong; Cian Healy is replacing Dave Kilcoyne who is heading off for a HIA.

49 minutes 

A decent move from Ireland: Gibson-Park spun a superb pace wide; James Lowe found space down the wing, Ringrose created space for himself infield but the play moved back for a forward pass from Lowe. Ireland win a penalty from the resulting scrum.

51 minutes 

Ireland make a mess of that attacking line-out. Italy win a penalty (James Ryan harshly penalised for blocking) and Garbisi clears his lines.

53 minutes

A couple of sloppy mistakes from Ireland; Cian Healy knocks on when Ireland had a good attacking position; then Keith Earls kicks out on the full from inside his own half.

55 minutes

Strong carries from Meyer and Cherif Traore results in an Italian penalty – Cian Healy the player punished. However, after kicking to the corner, Meyer is pinged for blocking at the line-out. Ireland clear their lines.

57 minutes 

Niccolò Cannone is caught offside; Sexton kicks the subsequent penalty into the Italian 22. Henshaw leads the attack, carrying well, Gibson-Park follows up to free Ryan and then Kelleher to get over the gain-line. Giosue Zilocchi uses an illegal hand in the ruck, just a yard from his own line.

Ireland get a penalty; Zilocchi gets a yellow card.

61 minutes TRY IRELAND( CJ STANDER)

Ireland take the scrum, five metres from the Italian line. They push the Italians backwards and win another penalty. This time they tap and go; Kelleher taking the initiative, Stander follows up to score his second try of the day. Ireland have now scored five tries and 39 points.

Kelleher limps off, nursing a left knee injury. Rob Herring comes in. So, too, do Craig Casey and Ryan Baird for their international debuts, the 12th and 13th players to get their first caps under Andy Farrell.

66 minutes Italy 10-41 Ireland

Will Connors gets the try, Ireland’s maul is brilliant, Connors touches down. Sexton adds the extras and Ireland are on their way to a huge win here. Italy down to 13 men at the moment. This could get ugly for them.

Hugo Keenan will tour with the Lions (if they tour). He has been superb for Ireland yet again.

And it is disallowed. Craig Casey’s pass to Lowe is forward; so scrum Italy, and the score remains Ireland 41-10 Italy.

70 minutes 

great scrum from Ireland. They win a penalty off it. Inside the Italian 22, they have a chance to score again.

71 minutes

But Cian Healy is penalised at the subsequent line-out for an illegal block. 

74 minutes

Hesitancy at the Ireland scrum leads to an Italian free-kick. They go nowhere with the ball, Ireland regain possession, spin it wide to Lowe whose run down the left ends with a knock-on. That phase of play kind of sums up this half. It promised much but instead was scrappy and dull to watch.

80 minutes 

Ireland on the charge inside the Italy 22. Last minute. A try would seal off their shift.

Apologies for that shutdown in our service there due to a technical glitch.

While we were away, Keith Earls scored his 33rd try for Ireland – only Brian O’Driscoll has more – while Tadhg Beirne was named man of the match.

Beirne said afterwards: “I am happy to be on the field given how much quality we have in our squad.

“We wanted to go at Italy, wanted to be more clinical and I thought we did that. The scoreboard showed that. Hopefully we can come away with victories in our last two games, as well.”

Ireland end the day with a 48-10 victory and can view the final two games of the season with a bit more confidence. But still. No one can read too much into this performance as Italy were shockingly poor. Scotland and England will prove to be much tougher tests.

You can read Murray Kinsella’s match report here and hear him and Garry Doyle discuss the game in a post-game podcast here.

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