Dublin: 19°C Saturday 24 July 2021


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With just over 20 minutes before kick-off in London we’re hearing no reports of any late pull-ups or ankle rolls so the teams should go out ‘as selected’ as they say in the amateur games.

Here’s Joe Schmidt’s Rob Kearney and Jared Payne-free starting line-up.


15. Simon Zebo
14. Tommy Bowe
13. Keith Earls
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Dave Kearney
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best
3. Mike Ross
4. Iain Henderson
5. Paul O’Connell (captain)
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Sean O’Brien
8. Jamie Heaslip


16. Sean Cronin
17. Cian Healy
18. Nathan White
19. Devin Toner
20. Chris Henry
21. Eoin Reddan
22. Ian Madigan
23. Luke Fitzgerald

And here’s who Jacques Brunel has sent to try and prolong Italy’s interest in a quarter-final.


15. Luke McLean
14. Leonardo Sarto
13. Michele Capagnaro
12. Gonzalo Garcia
11. Giovanbattista Venditti
10. Tommaso Allan
9. Edoardo Gori

1. Matias Aguero
2. Andrea Manici
3. Lorenzo Cittadini
4. Ouintin Geldenhuys
5. Josh Furno
6. Francesco Minto
7. Simone Favaro
8. Sergio Parisse (captain)


16. Davide Giazzon
17. Michele Rizzo
18. Dario Chistolini
19. Alessandro Zanni
20. Mauro Bergamasco
21. Guglielmo Palazzani
22. Carlo Canna
23. Tommaso Benvenuti

News that might interest anyone looking forward Ireland topping Pool D and meeting the runners-up in Pool C. Argentina have just sealed a bonus point win over Tonga and that puts them in second place behind New Zealand.

As the press filter in to their seats, they begin reaching for any lens they can get their hands on to help to watch the game.

The comment section is a mix of nerves, inter-family strife, confidence and an odd fixation with emojis.

If you’re having a bet, I reckon the confidence is the way to go. I think Ireland will take a bonus point and comfortable pass the 20 point handicap.

The teams are on their way from the tunnel.


The marvellous Italian anthem is first up at the Olympic Stadium. All together now… ITALIA… IT-AL-IA..

a quick reminder of how Pool D looks before KICK-OFF

A win is all Ireland really need here, but a bonus point wouldn’t do any harm.


1 min: Decent start for Italy taking a long Conor Murray box kick and attacking Ireland with width until, of all people, Sergio Parisse drops his pass in the middle of the park.


Sexton clears up field when Ireland regather, so Italy will have another spell with the ball and Ireland’s defence is getting a run in opposition territory.

The green wall forces Tommy Allen to kick and he overcooks it. Out on the full and Ireland can attack off a maul 10 metres inside Italy half.


Ugh. Jonathan Sexton’s second touch in this game is to drop a pass and Italy are coming back at us.


11 phases up for the Azzurri, but Sean O’Brien jackles in after a Heaslip tackle on 22 and Sexton can kick the green machine up to the 10 metre line for another go in the italy hald.


That’s much more like it. Murray is delivering the ball beautifully and on the second phase of the attack Sexton is through a gap and flying for the Italy 22.


Italy manage to set up shop well after the initial break and Ireland will settle for an easy penalty.


PENALTY! Ireland 3 Italy 0 (Sexton ’8)


By the way, Gonzalo Garcia was an early injury for Italy, Benvenuti replaced him.


Sexton just attempting to force the issue a little early, a kick is blocked down and the next set breaks down for Ireland as Kearney is hit marginally before Henshaw’s pass reaches him.

Scrum time!


Another good solid set for Italy, this is closer to their best self as opposed to the side that showed up against Canada.

The pressure ends with a penalty against Jamie Heaslip and Tommy Allen will slot this.

PENALTY: Ireland 3 Italy 3 (Allen ’15)


A lot of wiser analysts than me are welcoming Italy’s strong opening here.

I say, to hell with that. If Ireland shift up a gear or two, they’re capable of pulling clear.


Ireland steal a line-out. Now we’re talking…

TRY! Ireland 8 Italy 3 (Earls ’18)


Excellent Ireland attack, dummies, hits Henshaw with an inside ball and the centre shows his power with a hand-off and, on the turn, offload to Keith Earls to dot down.

Sexton adds the extras.

Ireland 10 Italy 3


That score, of course, means that Keith Earls is now Ireland’s leading Rugby World Cup try-scorer.

We tell you that as we wait the age that Tommy Allan takes to line up and strike a penalty.

PENALTY! Ireland 10 Italy 6 (Allan ’24)


A very overcooked kick for touch from Simon Zebo. It bobbles all the way over the dead ball line and we come back for a scrum 30 metres in front of Ireland’s posts.


Ireland’s famed discipline has temporarily deserted them here and Italy have shunned the posts and gone for a line-out.

Oh, it’s over-thrown to the back and two green shirts could have nabbed it.

Ireland’s back line motion to attack, but end up kicking clear. McLean returns it to the Ireland 10m.


TMO check now for Gori after he took Kearney by the legs and twisted a little. Penalty only.



Sexton’s penalty from 40+ metres hits the inside of the post and bounces back in to play.


Paulie gets the maul into the game, but Garces calls it a blue scrum. Such frustration out ther at the minute for Ireland. Flashes of excellence, but not able to string phases together.


Another line-out inside the blue 22 now after a penalty in midfield. Great attacking position.


Some big carries going in from O’Brien and O’Connell before Sexton looks for Bowe with that reverse ball. But still the pressure comes.


Offside. Ireland have a penalty out wide. Too wide for a kick at goal, Sexton wakes the crowd up by kicking the ball to them.


Italy frustrate the Ireland maul. Best attempts to present the ball after collapse, but Sean O’Brien’s boot makes it bob and bobble around and Conor Murray’s fingertips knock it on.

He’s fuming with himself, slamming the ball down when the whistle comes.


HALF-TIME: Ireland 10 Italy 6

A stuttering half of rugby that certainly wouldn’t look out of place in an early February Six Nations match.

This fist-pump from Keith Earls was by far the best moment of the half.

Keith Earls celebrates scoring a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO


Here comes the second half. Can Ireland snap out of their funk and meet the Italian physicality with their own brand of


Giazzon is in for Italy after Manici’s poor first half dart.

The line-out isn’t improving, but Ireland’s breakdown is. Paulie sets the second half tone by forcing a penalty.


Sensible rugby from Sexton here, in the first half he was forcing it, but now a little dink in to space behind the Italy defence will do.

Unfortunately, O’Mahony can’t help himself in the line-out and grapples Josh Furno long before he descends from the lift.


Iain Henderson is doing a Fez!

He charges Allan down and finds Gori collecting the loose ball, he picks up the scrum-half and marches him a few steps downfield.


Italy attacking with very good pace in the carry and intent in the carry.

It looks like Josh Furno is in, or has O’Mahony dragged him to touch?


Good hustle, Pete. O’Mahony drags Furno’s foot onto the line with a good six inches to spare before the try-line.

Rory Best’s line-out is solid and the exit strategy can go ahead.


Murray kicks long and finds a good touch, but Italy have their dander up. With a penalty coming, Allan kick cross field and Zebo has to smash Venditti to touch.


PENALTY! Ireland 10 Italy 9 (Allan ’51)

Now, we didn’t see this coming. We have a game on our hands.


Joe Schmidt is about to send on some new props. It hasn’t been the worst area of Ireland’s side, but the fresh blood should help.


Much better from Ireland. Rory Best and Paul O’Connell get in with some massive carries. With a penalty in the offing, Sexton kicks high for Kearney and Henshaw to compete for, but they come down empty handed on the goal line.

PENALTY! Ireland 13 Italy 9 (Sexton ’57)


CHURCH and Nathan White are in the game.


Keith Earls takes a hard line directly into contact and Italy are pinged for not rolling away from the mound of bodies.

We can breath a little easier.

PENALTY!  Ireland 16 Italy 9 (Sexton ’61)


Now we’re cooking! Iain Henderson has been Ireland’s best forward all day and he proves it again with two tackles one after the other. The second sticks and he chokes the blues up to force the scrum.


Ugh. Another breakdown penalty comes on halfway, but Canna will have a shot from 45 metres. It lands well short.


Chris Henry and Dev Toner are in the game. Iain Henderson trots off after a job very well done.


Sean Cronin is perhaps the man that best fits the bill of ‘impact sub’ on Ireland’s bench. He’s in now to make it an all new front row.


Ah, that’s a sloppy end to a pretty good day from Peter O’Mahony. The blindside hit the ruck without his arms and connected with a neck/head area.

YELLOW CARD: The frustration is clear in O’Mahony. It’s a similar hit that gave Iain Henderson a harsh red card v Munster at the end of last season.


A big carry from  Henry takes Ireland over the gainline and Sexton’s boot takes us into the Italy 22.

Five minute to kill this sin-bin and see this game out.


A missed penalty from J-Sex means this game is not yet dead.


FULL-TIME: Ireland 16 Italy 9

That will, just about, do.

About the author:

Sean Farrell