Azzurri have Magners snub point to prove, warns Heaslip

Ireland begin their quest to win back-to-back Grand Slams when they open their Six Nations defence against Italy at Croke Park today.

After ending their 61-year wait for a Grand Slam, captain Brian O'Driscoll wants Ireland to build on that triumph. "There's an element of the monkey now being off our back," he said. "You just forget that and look to another campaign, putting the same pressure on yourself to perform. We've spoken about expectations and we know we can't remain stagnant otherwise other teams will pass us by."

O'Driscoll has been reunited with Leinster team-mate Gordon D'Arcy in the midfield, a partnership that has proved effective in the past. D'Arcy has been rewarded for his fine club form, displacing Ulster's Paddy Wallace. "I'm pleased that Gordon is back. It took him time, a while to get back from that broken arm – he was out for a year," O'Driscoll added.

While Italy are favourites to finish bottom of the Six Nations again, Jamie Heaslip fears the Azzurri could be out for revenge after the club sides were refused entry to the Magners League.

"Italy are a class outfit and they might feel they have something to prove," Heaslip said. "They might have something against the Irish team now that Italy didn't get the nod for the Magners League. We play against the Italian players in the Heineken Cup – they're big and they bash you about. They hit hard, have some skilful players and seriously good finishers."

The Italy coach, Nick Mallett, will use the same squad from November's win over Samoa that ended a 13-game losing streak, including all five in last season's Six Nations.

Ireland v Italy: Croke Park teams

Ireland

Kearney (Leinster) 15

Bowe (Ospreys) 14

O'Driscoll (Leinster) 13

D'Arcy (Leinster) 12

Trimble (Ulster) 11

O'Gara (Munster) 10

O'Leary (Munster) 9

Healy (Leinster) 1

Flannery (Munster) 2

Hayes (Munster) 3

Cullen (Leinster) 4

O'Connell (Mun, c) 5

McLaughlin (Leinster) 6 

Wallace (Munster) 7

Heaslip (Leinster) 8

Replacements:

16 Best (Ulster); 17 Court (Ulster); 18 Ryan (Munster); 19 O'Brien (Leinster); 20 Reddan (Leinster); 21 Wallace (Ulster); 22 Earls (Munster)

Italy

McLean (Treviso) 15

Robertson (Viadana) 14

Canale (Clermont) 13

Garcia (Treviso) 12

Mi Bergamasco (Stade) 11

Gower (Bayonne) 10

Tebaldi (Parma) 9

Perugini (Bayonne) 1

Ghiraldini (Treviso, c) 2

Castrogiovanni (Leic) 3

Del Fava (Viadana) 4

Geldenhuys (Viadana) 5

Sole (Viadana) 6

Ma Bergamasco (Stade) 7

A Zanni (Treviso) 8

Replacements: 16 Ongaro; 17 Aguero (both Saracens); 18 Bortolami (Glouc); 19 Derbyshire (Padova); 20 Picone (Treviso); 21 Bocchino (Rovigo); 22 Masi (Racing Metro)

Referee R Poite (France)

Kick-off 2.30pm TV BBC1

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back