Italy vs Ireland: Six Nations 2023 – LIVE!
Final preparations at the Stadio Olimpico! Kick-off in Six Nations round three is just over 20 minutes away…
Farrell admits fear of Ireland complacency
We’ve seen a candid Andy Farrell at times this week in the build-up to the trip to Rome.
Most coaches would be absolutely cock-a-hoop with how things have been going for Ireland, but the former England defence guru admits that he still fears the possibility of complacency creeping in during a massive year.
“I still fear it now,” he said.
“I suppose that’s it right there because there’s two teams that go at it and someday somebody is going to win whether it’s 50-50 or not. It’s up to us whether it is or not.
“It’s just driving our standards and having a realisation and an honesty of where we’re at and making sure that those standards in our preparation on a daily basis is where they need to be.”
Six Nations standings
A reminder of how the Six Nations table looks heading into round three, with Ireland topping the pile but Scotland not far behind ahead of their trip to Paris tomorrow…
Ireland expect key trio back for Murrayfield
Andy Farrell said he was “10 out of 10” on the confidence scale when asked this week if Sexton, forced off early in the second half against France, would return for a tough trip to Murrayfield in two weeks’ time.
He added that star tighthead Tadhg Furlong and starting scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park would also be back for that showdown in Glasgow.
A massive, massive boost for Ireland’s chances of completing that first Grand Slam since 2018.
Farrell confident in Ireland’s Test rookies
The question of how to adequately replace the influential Johnny Sexton, set to retire after the World Cup, has continued to be the one thing causing unease during Ireland’s rise to the top.
With Joey Carbery omitted, the faith has now been placed in Leinster understudy Ross Byrne to try and prove himself worthy of that coveted no10 jersey in the long-term.
He certainly made a good impression off the bench against France, with Andy Farrell confident that both he and new scrum-half Craig Casey can reach the required level.
“What’s been impressive for them coming off the bench is they’ve watched the game, they’ve got a feel for the game and they understand how to control what they were trying to achieve,” said Farrell.
“A little bit of a different dynamic for them, starting the game, but we expect the control that they’ve had. It was the right thing for the right moment and we expect that to be the same from the start of the game.
“We want to obviously take our game to Italy and they’ll be at the forefront of that.”
The Irish fans are out in force in Rome! Should be some atmosphere in store at the Stadio Olimpico this afternoon.
Farrell: Italy are a ‘serious threat’ to Ireland
Italy have only ever beaten Ireland once in the Six Nations – a 22-15 upset in Rome way back in 2013.
Few give them a prayer of replicating that feat this afternoon despite the clear strides made under Kieran Crowley, though Andy Farrell certainly won’t be guilty of underestimating the Azzurri as he looks to avoid a monumental shock.
“We’ve full respect for Italy,” he said on Friday.
“Italy are obviously chasing that win at home and it’s a big scalp, so we know the emotion that they’ve always had, but the skill that they’ve put in with that now makes them a serious threat to us.
“We’re aware of that, and our preparation says so. There’s a realisation of what we’re up against this week and it’ll be a tough one.”
Catt allays fears over Ringrose injury
To lose such an ever-present Test warrior like Garry Ringrose is a blow for Ireland, whose remarkable success has not skipped a beat despite the absences of several key players.
The reliable Leinster centre was due to earn his 50th senior cap in Rome this afternoon, but instead Bundee Aki will move from inside to outside centre as Stuart McCloskey lines up at 12.
But Ireland attack coach Mike Catt has insisted that Ringrose’s calf issue is nothing serious, with Scotland and England on the horizon to finish off the Six Nations.
“Garry picked a bit of knock up on his calf last week,” Catt said after Friday’s captain’s run.
“We’ve sort managed it through the week, and unfortunately, I think due to the travel and everything yesterday, he’s woken up a little bit tight. He’s obviously very, very disappointed because it was going to be his 50th cap, so he’s out.
“But it does give Stuart McCloskey, who is coming back into the team, and Jimmy O’Brien an opportunity to play in a side that’s flying at the moment and gives them an opportunity to show what they’re about as well.
“No, definitely not [Ringrose facing a long spell out]. It literally just tightened up this morning. He hasn’t pulled anything or done anything like that. It’s obviously very disappointing for him.”
Garbisi returns for Italy
Three changes from Kieran Crowley to the Italy team that started against England at Twickenham a fortnight ago.
Pierre Bruno is recalled to the wing, with London Irish centre Luca Morisi dropped to the bench as Tommaso Menoncello moves into midfield.
In the front row, Simone Ferrari is preferred to Saracens tighthead Marco Riccioni.
But the biggest news is at fly-half, where first-choice Paolo Garbisi returns after a knee injury to start in place of Harlequins’ Tommaso Allan.
On the bench, Giovanni Pettinelli comes into the fold as back-row cover with Gloucester’s Jake Polledri sadly injured again having earned his first cap since 2020 in round two.
No Sexton as Ireland ring changes
Sexton is not risked for Ireland today due to a leg issue, so Ross Byrne gets the keys at fly-half having impressed off the bench against France.
Ditto Craig Casey, with Conor Murray dropping to the bench as Andy Farrell experiments with a new half-back pairing in Rome.
Stuart McCloskey had initially been among the replacements, but starts alongside Bundee Aki in the centres with Garry Ringrose lost on Friday to a calf injury.
Ireland’s back three is unchanged, while in the pack Ronan Kelleher starts at hooker with Rob Herring out after that hit from Uini Atonio and usual starter Dan Sheehan fit enough for the bench in a huge boost.
James Ryan captains Ireland for the seventh time from the second row with Sexton sidelined, partnered by Iain Henderson with Tadhg Beirne ruled out for up to 12 weeks with an ankle injury.
Jack Conan also comes in at no8, with the excellent Caelan Doris switching to the blindside flank and Peter O’Mahony on the bench.
Ireland are still without the likes of Tadhg Furlong, Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw and Cian Healy.
Munster’s Jack Crowley is in line to make his Six Nations debut from the bench as Byrne’s understudy, while the absence of Ringrose means Jimmy O’Brien is promoted to the matchday squad.
Ryan Baird is also in as cover at lock.