reland will be expected to brush aside Italy when the two sides clash in the Six Nations in Dublin this afternoon.
Andy Farrell’s hosts are hoping to keep their championship hopes alive after suffering a potentially crucial defeat to France last time out.
Ireland more than played their part in a thrilling tussle in Paris in round two with tries from Mack Hansen, Josh van der Flier and Jamison Gibson-Park, but eventually succumbed to a 30-24 loss that kept France – who went on to ease past Scotland yesterday – on track for a potential Grand Slam.
The visit of Italy presents a perfect opportunity for the Men in Green to swiftly recover some momentum.
Despite a battling display against France on opening weekend and an improved second half against England last time out from Kieran Crowley’s youthful team, the Azzurri remain without a win in the Six Nations since 2015 and have already shipped 70 points with just 10 in reply so far this year.
Italy have now lost 34 consecutive matches at the tournament amid familiar calls for the implementation of a promotion/relegation system or even the introduction of South Africa from 2025. Another wooden spoon looks absolutely guaranteed already.
Ireland vs Italy date, kick-off time and venue
Ireland vs Italy is scheduled for a 3pm GMT kick-off today, Sunday February 27, 2022.
The Six Nations match will take place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
How to watch Ireland vs Italy
TV channels: Ireland vs Italy is being broadcast live free-to-air on ITV, with coverage beginning at 2:15pm.
Livestream: Fans can also watch the game unfold live online via the ITV website or ITV Hub.
Ireland vs Italy team news
Ireland coach Farrell has opted to stick with Joey Carbery at fly-half, despite influential captain Johnny Sexton’s return to fitness.
Carbery came in at 10 in Paris after Sexton was bothered by a hamstring issue and retains his spot, with the skipper on the bench.
Ireland show six changes from the side that lost to France, with injured duo Ronan Kelleher and James Ryan replaced by Dan Sheehan and Ryan Baird as Peter O’Mahony starts at blindside flanker and Caelan Doris shifts to No8, with Jack Conan missing out.
Ulster’s Michael Lowry makes his debut at full-back, the fit-again Robbie Henshaw replaces Bundee Aki in midfield and Hansen swaps wings to accommodate the return of James Lowe.
Lock Iain Henderson will miss Sunday’s game after returning a positive test for Covid-19.
Italy’s injury list continues to mount, with flanker Sebastian Negri out after being knocked unconscious in worrying scenes against England following a collision.
The likes of Marco Fuser, Johan Meyer and Jake Polledri are also out, as are Luca Morisi, Tommaso Menoncello, Ratuva Tavuyara and Ange Capuozzo.
Pierre Bruno makes his Italy debut on the wing, with Leonardo Marin making his Six Nations bow in the centres.
Giovanni Pettinelli gets the nod at blindside flanker, with Marco Zanon and Braam Steyn dropping to the bench and Federico Mori axed from the squad entirely.
Ireland vs. Italy lineups
Ireland XV: Lowry; Hansen, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Carbery, Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong, Beirne, Baird; O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris.
Replacements:Herring, Kilcoyne, Bealham, Treadwell, Conan, Casey, Sexton, Hume.
Italian XV: E Padovani (Benetton); P Bruno (Zebre), JI Brex (Benetton), L Marin (Benetton), M Ioane (Benetton); P Garbisi (Montpellier), S Varney (Gloucester); D Fischetti (Zebre), G Lucchesi (Benetton), P Ceccarelli (Brive), N Cannone (Benetton), F Ruzza (Benetton), G Pettinelli (Benetton), M Lamaro (Benetton, capt), T Halafihi (Benetton).
Replacements: E Faiva (Benetton), I Nemer (Benetton), T Pasquali (Benetton), D Sisi (Zebre), M Zuliani (Benetton), B Steyn (Benetton), A Fusco (Zebre), M Zanon (Benetton).
Ireland vs Italy head to head (h2h) history and results
Ireland have won 29 of the previous 33 meetings between these two nations, including the last 11 in a row.
They have not lost to Italy since the 2013 Six Nations, when the retiring Brian O’Driscoll was yellow carded in a 22-15 upset in Rome.
Ireland vs Italy prediction
As ever, Italy have had patches of impressive play during the Six Nations so far, stretches that make you think they are capable of ending this dismal losing run.
However, while they certainly never lack for commitment and determination, their constant inability to turn promising situations into points is beyond frustrating.
This is a youthful squad that is being decimated by injuries and a long afternoon surely awaits in Dublin this weekend.
Farrell may change things up with a trip to Twickenham on the horizon, but the return of Sexton spells more dire news for the Italians.
Ireland to win by at least 20 points.
Ireland vs Italy betting odds
Ireland win: 1/200
Italy win: 70/1
Odds via Betfair (Subject to change).
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.