Ireland travel to Rome this Saturday for a round 3 Six Nations clash against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico at 2.15.
ndy Farrell’s side are on cloud nine after registering bonus-point wins over both Wales and France in their opening two matches in the 2023 Six Nations Championship and hope to keep that fine record going when they play an Italian side who sit bottom of the table after suffering two defeats against France and England.
For Kieran Crowley’s side, they must now dust themselves down and prepare for a meeting with the number-one team in the world, who have Grand Slam glory very much in their sights.
Here is everything you need to know about this weekend’s fixture.
When and where is the match on?
Italy will host the 2018 Grand Slam winners at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday February 25, with the match set to begin at 2.15 Irish time.
Is the match on TV?
The match will be broadcast live on RTÉ 2.
Garry Ringrose has been ruled out of the Italy clash after failing to recover from a calf injury, with Stuart McCloskey promoted into the starting team in his place.
McCloskey will start at inside centre, with Bundee Aki moving to the outside berth. Leinster utility back Jimmy O’Brien has been elevated to the bench.
Ross Byrne and Craig Casey will make their first Six Nations starts. Byrne will don the Ireland No 10 jersey for the first time since November 2020 as he makes the first championship start of his career in Rome.
Johnny Sexton will sit out the game, with James Ryan named as captain in his absence, and the veteran out-half’s absence opens the door for his Leinster teammate.
Munster scrum-half Casey will make his first Six Nations start alongside Byrne at the half-back.
Iain Henderson starts in the second-row alongside Ryan in place of the injured Tadhg Beirne, with Ryan Baird coming on to the bench where Jack Crowley will provide cover for Byrne.
There is also another change in the back-row, with Jack Conan recalled at No 8, with Caelan Doris switching to blindside and Peter O’Mahony among the replacements. Ronan Kelleher starts at hooker, with the returning Dan Sheehan on the bench.
Italy: Ange Capuozzo; Edoardo Padovani, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Pierre Bruno; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari; Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza; Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro, Lorenzo Cannone. Replacements: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Marco Riccioni, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Alessandro Fusco, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Allan.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; James Lowe, Stuart McCloskey, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen; Ross Byrne, Craig Casey; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Finlay Bealham; Iain Henderson, James Ryan (capt); Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan. Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O’Toole, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Jimmy O’Brien.
Last meeting between the sides
Last year’s match was particularly humiliating for Italy, with Ireland running in nine tries in a 57-6 hammering. The Italians also had to play with 13 men for an hour. Hame Faiva, Italy’s replacement hooker, was sent off for connecting with the chin of Dan Sheehan.