2016-17 International Rugby Men Ireland Men Italy Men Six Nations

Teams up for Italy v Ireland Six Nations clash.

The teams are up for Saturday afternoon’s Six Nations clash between Italy and Ireland. The match takes place at Stadio Olimpico, kick off 14:25. Live on ITV.

Joe Schmidt has opted for three changes to the team that lost to Scotland. Cian Healy swaps with Jack McGrath in the front row and Donnacha Ryan comes in for the injured Iain Henderson. On the bench, Craig Gilroy replaces the out of form Tommy Bowe.

Nothing changed in starting the back line. It’s still full of far too many instinctive players. While it’s unlikely they will show much more control than they did against Scotland, it’s equally unlikely that they’ll need to.

The standard game plan is to tire Italy out over the first half and then pull away in the second. This time though, an embarrassed Schmidt, who was largely out thought by his counterpart last week, will be looking some sort of early response. Don’t be surprised if Ireland go into an early lead, I still think it will be close at the break. This is a far cry from the fit and invigorated Ireland that strutted their pomp against tiring sides in the Autumn.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m expecting a comfortable win, probably with a bonus point. But this team doesn’t have the feel to me of the exciting sides that Joe seemed to produce almost effortlessly during his time at Leinster and in his first few Ireland outings.  It’s an aging and old fashioned side relying on grunt rather than guile up front and on mistakes, or individual talent, to break down today’s organised defences in the backs.

You have to feel sorry for Joe. The IRFU puts so much weight on Six Nations performances. To me though, two and a bit years out from the next World Cup they should have other priorities. This would have been a good match to give some more of the younger players, particularly the Connacht backs, a bit of a run out.

As for Italy, well, they have a bit more to play for. The pressure will increase on their continued participation in the Six Nations, and the PRO12 for that matter. They need to show some dramatic improvements in the very near future. I sincerely hope they do – maybe just not this weekend!

The FRU Predicts: A comfortable win for Ireland who should feast on Italian mistakes. Should suit Jackson and young Ringrose to a tee.

Edoardo Padovani15Rob Kearney
Angelo Esposito14Keith Earls
Tommaso Benvenuti13Garry Ringrose
Luke McLean12Robbie Henshaw
Giovanbattista Venditti11Simon Zebo
Carlo Canna10Paddy Jackson
Edoardo Gori9Conor Murray
Andrea Lovotti1Cian Healy
Leonardo Ghiraldini2Rory Best
Lorenzo Cittadini3Tadhg Furlong
Marco Fuser4Donnacha Ryan
Dries van Schalkwyk5Devin Toner
Maxime Mbanda6CJ Stander
Simone Favaro7Sean O’Brien
Sergio Parisse8Jamie Heaslip
Ornel Gega16Niall Scannell
Sami Panico17Jack McGrath
Dario Chistolini18John Ryan
George Biagi19Ultan Dillane
Braam Steyn20Josh van der Flier
Giorgio Bronzini21Kieran Marmion
Tommaso Allan22Ian Keatley
Michele Campagnaro23Craig Gilroy

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