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Dublin: 1°C Sunday 7 March 2021
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Six Nations: How Ireland rated

Our man in the stand runs the rule over the victorious Irish players.

Andrew Trimble flies in for tray number five.
Andrew Trimble flies in for tray number five.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IRELAND RAN OUT 42-10 winners over Italy in the Six nations today.

However, there is still plenty of room to improve before next week’s return to Paris.

Rob Kearney – 8

Kearney’s surging runs and impressive leg power when tackled caused problems for the Italian defence all day. Ireland’s most dangerous back missed a few high balls in a fractured first half but dominated the airways after the break. Back to his best.

Tommy Bowe – 8

The Ospreys winger was also guilty of fumbling some garryowens but was in the right place, twice, to snuff out any hopes of an Italian comeback. Linked up well with Earls and was strong in the tackle.

Keith Earls – 8

Evoked glimpses of Brian O’Driscoll in his new role at outside centre and showed great determination to score his try out wide. Claimed the restart following his try but was shut down immediately by a strong covering tackle. His pace is an added bonus in the centre.

Gordon D’Arcy – 7

Enjoyed his role as backline general and proved a threat going forward. Found gaps in the Italian backline at pleasing regularity and was provided supporting runs throughout. Was unfortunate with a try that was scratched off but will be happy with his first outing in the centre with Earls.

Andrew Trimble – 6

Loose passes and airborne vulnerability held Ireland back at stages in the second-half. Trimble coped well with the threat of Venditti on the right wing and proved a strong runner from start to finish. His eagerness to be involved paid off in the last minute with a 50-metre sprint to the line.

Johnny Sexton – 8

The Leinster out-half will not have relished his kick from the left touchline as the clock ticked down and the crowd filed out. He was guilty of a couple of sloppy passes in the first period but his rapier-like passes contributed to both of Bowe’s tries. Solid kicking performance that should steel him ahead of next week’s game in France.

Conor Murray – 5

Perhaps the early comparisons with Mike Phillips have cast Murray in an unenviable light. The Munster scrum-half was often ponderous at the breakdown and slowed down many Irish attacks. Played a part in Ireland’s two first half tries and made one darting break but was otherwise disappointing. Replaced after 53 minutes.

Cian Healy – 7

Imposed himself on the Italian scrum in the opening 20 minutes but his influence waned as he run into a rampaging Andrea Masi. Regained his composure in the second half and won vital penalties for his side. Always showed for the ball and regularly made ground.

Rory Best – 5

For a player that been in the form of his life in the past 18 months, Best’s performance was muted today. Tackled hard in the loose but threw a couple of errand line-outs, the first of which led to Sergio Parisse’s try after 35 minutes. Will need to up his game against the French.

Mike Ross – 6

Combative throughout and was part part of a dominant front-row in the opening and closing periods of the match. Ross’ endeavour was evident from start to finish and took the ball into contact, albeit for little return, as the Italian challenge faded.

Donnacha O’Callaghan – 5

A solid if unspectacular game from O’Callaghan, which is one of the reasons why Donncha Ryan is in the hunt for the Number 4 jersey. He tackled earnestly and was strong in the centre of the line-out but was outshone by his Munster colleague, O’Connell. His international future – as a future starter or replacement – will rest on a strong game against France.

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Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan get to grips with Tobias Botes / ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Paul O’Connell (c) – 8

The Irish captain rekindled the fighting spirit and fearless ball-carrying that has won him widespread acclaim over the past decade. Gained yards ad nauseum and his legs never stopped pumping. Was guilty of a couple of infringements at the breakdown but the pay-off came through wresting ball from numerous Italian runners.

Stephen Ferris – 8

Ferris was determined to make a positive mark on this season’s championship and he thundered about the Lansdowne Road pitch from start to finish. Crunching tackles on Barbieri and Burton were highlights but he was most devastating with ball in hand. Out the back passes and offloads in the tackle. Constantly had Italy on the back-foot. My man of the match.

Sean O’Brien – 6

A lot of O’Brien’s best work came in tandem with O’Connell and at the bottom of rucks. It is a shame to see the flanker forced to shelf his natural, running game and a move to 8 would bring out his true powers. Penalised for not releasing on a couple of occasions and replaced by O’Mahony mid-way through the second half.

Jamie Heaslip – 7

Heaslip has shown positive signs of returning to his best form and his headlong charges at the Italian line was chiefly responsible for breaking up play and creating space for Earls first try. Was guilty of backing away from Parisse early in the first half but put in ferocious tackles for the remainder – the highlight of which was a ball-stripping effort on Botes.

Replacements:

Sean Cronin – 6

Fresh legs and a willingness to take the ball in hand when he came on.

Tom Court – 6

A first try for Ireland will hopefully make the start of a positive four weeks for Court as he will be called on in each of Ireland’s three remaining matches.

Donnacha Ryan – 7

The bite and sharpness Ryan shows coming off the bench will see him start with the replacements in Paris next week.

Peter O’Mahony – 6

The first-cap eventually came for the Munster flanker and his verve heaped further pressure on the creaking Italian forwards.

Eoin Reddan – 7

It could be argued that Ireland had weathered the Italian storm by the time Reddan arrived but the team looked far better and moved quicker after his introduction.

Ronan O’Gara – 6

Slipped into the centre as a replacement for Earls, was solid in his cameo and won his 118th cap for his country.

Fergus McFadden – 6

Not afforded the opportunity to attack but tackled with commitment and was not afraid to get stuck in.

As it happened: Ireland v Italy, Six Nations

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