Four Ulstermen have been selected in the 23 for Ireland’s third match of the Guinness Six Nations against Italy.

Jacob Stockdale starts on the left wing while Jordi Murphy is the only other Ulsterman in the starting team. Iain Henderson and John Cooney start on the bench while captain fantastic, Rory Best has been given the weekend off.

Tadhg Furlong is the only player to keep his spot in the front row and is joined by Dave Kilcoyne and Sean Cronin. Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux occupy an all-Connacht second row partnership. Peter O’Mahony captains the side from blindside flanker and is joined by Sean O’Brien on the openside and at Murphy at eight.

Despite rotation in the forwards, the backline remains unchanged. Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are the halfbacks while Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell are the centre pairing. Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney round off a familiar back line. On the bench, Jack Carty is set to make his debut in the absence of Joey Carbery.

Italy are missing a few key players in the form of Jake Polledri, Matteo Minozzi, Mattia Bellini and Sergio Parisse. Braam Steyn moves to the base of the scrum in replace of the Italian centurion and has had a decent tournament so far. He scored a try against Wales, he’s a destructive ball carrier and of what we have seen so far, indicates that there is life in those Italian legs after Parisse’s departure.

Similarly, Jayden Hayward has made a strong start to the tournament from fullback as has Wasps’ Michele Campagnaro. Federico Ruzza, who starts at lock has been in impressive form for club side, Benetton Rugby this season and will attempt to make life difficult for Ireland at the lineout.

Still, Ireland should have enough to get the job done in comfortable fashion at the Stadio Olimpico. The last meeting between the sides saw Ireland run in eight tries in a 54-7 thumping in Chicago in November. I’m not expecting a similar result due to what is at stake however I can only see one victor on Sunday.

Italy are yet to register on the championship board but have shown plenty of endeavor in their opening two matches. Trailing 33-3 with ten minutes to go in Edinburgh, three tries salvaged some respectability to the scoreline poor discipline prevented from gaining anything from their home match against Wales.

The FRU predicts: Italy have gone through a purple patch in each of their games so far in the Six Nations and I see this being no different. However Ireland will have enough to secure the bonus point victory.

Italy Ireland
Jayden Hayward 15 Rob Kearney
Edoardo Padovani 14 Keith Earls
Michele Cam////pagnaro 13 Chris Farrell
Luca Morisi 12 Bundee Aki
Angelo Esposito 11 Jacob Stockdale
Tommaso Allan 10 Johnny Sexton
Tito Tebaldi 9 Conor Murray
Andrea Lovotti 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Leonardo Ghiraldini 2 Sean Cronin
Simone Ferrari 3 Tadhg Furlong
Federico Ruzza 4 Ultan Dillane
Dean Budd 5 Quinn Roux
Jimmy Tuivaiti 6 Peter O’Mahony
Maxime Mbanda 7 Sean O’Brien
Braam Steyn 8 Jordi Murphy
Luca Bigi 16 Niall Scannell
Cherif Traore 17 Jack McGrath
Tiziano Pasquali 18 John Ryan
Dave Sisi 19 Iain Henderson
Alessandro Zanni 20 Josh VD Flier
Guglielmo Palazzani 21 John Cooney
Ian McKinley 22 Jack Carty
Tommaso Castello 23 Andrew Conway

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