Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 3°C Tuesday 13 April 2021


49,351 Views 72 Comments

Welcome to Ireland’s second Six Nations match of 2017 and, again, the opening is not a smooth one for Joe Schmidt’s side.

Captain Rory Best has failed to recover from the stomach bug that kept him from training yesterday and so 24-year-old Munster hooker Niall Scannell will make his debut from the start having been an unused replacement in Edinburgh.

Here’s the full story.

Here’s the (revised) team-sheets for today’s meeting of minds between Joe Schmidt and Conor O’Shea.


15. Edoardo Padovani
14. Angelo Esposito
13. Tommaso Benvenuti
12. Luke McLean
11. Giovanbattista Venditti
10. Carlo Canna
9. Edoardo Gori

1. Andrea Lovotti
2. Leonardo Ghiraldini
3. Lorenzo Cittadini
4. Marco Fuser
5. Dries Van Schalkwyk
6. Maxime Mbanda
7. Simone Favaro
8. Sergio Parisse (captain)


16. Ornel Gega
17. Sami Panico
18. Dario Chistolini
19. George Biagi
20. Abraham Steyn
21. Giorgio Bronzini
22. Tommaso Allan
23. Michele Campagnaro


15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Simon Zebo
10. Paddy Jackson
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Niall Scannell
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Devin Toner
6. CJ Stander
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Jamie Heaslip (Captain)


16. James Tracy
17. Jack McGrath
18. John Ryan
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Josh van der Flier
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Ian Keatley
23. Craig Gilroy

Shane Horgan interviews Conor O’Shea pre-match on RTE and reveals that the Italian coach’s nickname is… Caesar!

O’Shea insists he doesn’t know why the name stuck, but surely it’s time for the moniker to make a comeback.

Right, the teams are out and the anthems are striking up.


Beautiful conditions in Rome. Dry, sunny and crying out for some expansive rugby.

KICK-OFF: Carlo Canna gets us under way, kicking high into Ireland’s 22. Easy one for Heaslip to take.


Zebo takes a second catch, this one anything but, a terrific take of a high ball as Ireland exit their half.

The move doesn’t last long unfortunately. Ringrose knocks on and we’ll have the game’s first scrum.


McGrath and Best gone out of the starting XV, but Ireland’s scrum is still a weapon to be reckoned with. Terrific shove wins a penalty just inside Italy territory.

Zebo boots the ball to the 22.


After kicks are exchanged (in and out of the 22) we’ll get going again with an Italian scrum on their 22.

Ireland look bright at the start, eager to show invention and attacking intent. Italy holding for now, but look a tad rickety.


After Ireland force the scrum to go their way, they try a set-piece move off the scrum with Zebo trailing in off the blindside.

The space just isn’t there yet though and Ryan’s knock-on makes us pack down again.


Ireland are all over the Azzurri. Conor Murray caught by an Italian arm slapping the ball from an offside position. With the advantage, Healy goes over the line, but there are too many bodies between him and the turf and Jackson calls the penalty before Ireland recycle.


Ireland pass up the easy three and go digging for tries. Murray comes close after Stander and Furlong combine in a carry.

Jackson flings wide, but Kearney’s pass takes some speed out of the move and Zebo drops the ball as he reaches for the corner.

The Corkman looks to have hurt himself in the process too.


The breakthrough comes for Ireland thanks to a terrific flat skip-pass from Paddy Jackson gives Limerick’s finest finisher space to raid in the right corner.

Jackson nails the conversion too.

Italy 0  Ireland 7


Italy brimming with urgency on their first possession in Ireland territory. Henshaw leads the defence with terrific line speed to strip the ball back 10 metres behind the gainline, but an advantage had been in the offing for Italy.

PENALTY! Italy 3 Ireland 7 (Canna ’15)


TRY! Italy 3 Ireland 12 (Stander ’18)


Ireland go through 10 pretty neutral phases before a Jamie Heaslip offload puts Henshaw on a collision course for Canna. He makes yards, Ireland go wide left quickly and a fine Zebo pass leaves CJ Stander in ample space on the left.

Jackson’s touchline strike is far from clean, but it somehow sneaks over inside the near post.

Italy 3 Ireland 14


Line breaks are starting to come a little more easily for Ireland now, especially for someone as talented as Zebo. He ghosts around the blue wall to set Ireland up for another attack inside the 22.


Ireland are one score away from a try bonus as Keith Earls dots down his second of the day,

Nothing fancy needed that time, slick passing from Jackson, Ringrose and Kearney ensured the overlap was punished.

Italy 3 Ireland 21


Italy maul in Ireland’s 22 and Jamie Heaslip in pinged for pulling it down. The Blue wave will roll again…

PENALTY TRY! Italy 10 Ireland 21


YELLOW CARD: Donnacha Ryan is sent to the sin-bin, Glen Jackson wasting no time in penalising Ireland to the full extent of the law.


Parisse is penalised as Kearney cometes for a high ball. All the Italians were offside for that one,.

Heaslip passes up the easy points and we go to the corner even when we’re a lock down.


TRY! Italy 10 Ireland 28 (CJ Stander ’34)

One lock, no problem. Heaslip takes the line-out and Ireland set up a maul. It looks like Scannell is primed for his debut try, but big CJ takes over and storms in for his second.


So that’s the bonus point secured for Ireland before half-time. It’s the first try bonus in the Championship’s history.

The task now is to make it a winning bonus point and keeping the points difference shooting upwards would do no harm either.

Flag 40Mins

HALF-TIME: Italy 10 Ireland 28

Bonus point in the bag, aggression and intent at every turn. You could only have asked more of the maul defence after that 40.


SECOND HALF: We’re  back under way. Ireland still down to 14 men for the moment, so they’re playing the percentages early on.


Ireland run out of room after going towards the right sideline. Murray chips over for Henshaw to chase, but he can’t get a firm hand on and Italy clear.

Donnacha Ryan comes back in. What can Ireland do with 15 men?


That’s what they can do. Conor Murray punishes the Italian eagerness to get off the line, feigning a pass wide and instead popping one to Stander.

The Munster man’s angle is superb and he slaps a tackler away on his way around the corner.

Jackson continues his 100% ratio.

Italy 10 Ireland 35


As Conor O’Shea tips the bench up to empty it, Schmidt sends Craig Gilroy on in place of Henshaw.

Keith Earls will move to the centre with Gilroy on the wing.


Italy mount a period of real pressure on Ireland. Heaslip, Ryan and Ringrose are leading the breakdown and the gainline resistance. The latter man rushes up to put pressure on, but he’s called for a knock-on.

More Italian possession coming.


Andy Farrell must be happy with this. It’s closing in on an hour played, but Ireland’s line-speed is rapid. Jackson led the latest charge.


Ireland’s scrum under pressure and Gori takes the quick-tap penalty that draws Ireland into a scramble defence.

With Parisse lined up to carry, Jackson does brilliantly to get up and hit him behind the gainline and also strip the skipper.

Conor Murray clears the lines.


Lovely attack with offloads and slick hands as Ireland rumble forward. Jackson gets the ball, spots the overlap, but just wants to deliver a try to Craig Gilroy too much and slightly overcooks the pass.


The game has just regained some structure after something of a lull from all the replacements.

Ultan Dillane carrying well and CJ still has his shoulder to the wheel.


Sean O’Brien flexes his muscles and forces a turnover in the Italian third. Heaslip pops a pass to Gilroy and he bounces in off his right foot and makes a bee-line for the posts.


That was Sean O’Brien’s last act of the game. JVDF and Kieran Marmion are in the game.

Only Ian Keatley remains on the bench now.


That’s becoming something of a trademark for Garry Ringrose. He takes Jackson’s reverse pass and jinks from one foot to another as he darts through the line at a 45 degree angle.

He has the pace to keep clear of the cover in behind too and dots down his first Test try away from home.


Ian Keatley comes into the game for the last five minutes. He’ll take Zebo’s spot on the wing.


CJ wasn’t content with a man of the match gong for charging into contact, so he threw a cross-field kick into the mix.

The bounce fell kindly for Gilroy, but he stuck his hands to the ball like glue and hit the gas for a 40 metre sprint under the posts.

Ireland weren’t willing to let the game fizzle out. A penalty on halfway is quick-tapped.

Stander goes close to scoring a fourth try, but instead Earls and then Jackson fling fine passes wide and Craig Gilroy gets in for his hat-trick!

Nine tries, nine conversions for Ireland.

The bus must’ve got to the Stadio Olimpico five or six minutes early today.

The perfect way to bounce back.

FULL-TIME: Italy 10 Ireland 63

About the author:

Sean Farrell