Italy vs Ireland Six Nations 2015 match preview: What time does it start and where can I watch it?

A look ahead to Saturday’s Six Nations clash between Italy and Ireland

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ireland will be eager to build on an outstanding autumn campaign when they launch their Six Nations title defence against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.

Joe Schmidt's side rose to third in the World Rugby rankings after an unbeaten autumn series and they now have their sights set on a second-successive Six Nations title.

But the visitors will be without their inspirational outside-half Jonathan Sexton as he completes a 12-week concussion layoff. However, Sexton is expected to return in time to face France.

Three-cap Ian Keatley has been entrusted with the task of filling Sexton's meticulous boots, the fly-half will form a half-back partnership with Munster team-mate Conor Murray, while Ian Madigan will start on the bench.

Sean O'Brien is set to start, just eight days after returning from a five-month injury absence. The bullish Leinster flanker, who has not represented his country since November 2013, played 50 minutes for the Irish Wolfhounds on 30 January, after recovering from a second shoulder reconstruction.  

Sean-OBrien.jpg
Sean O'Brien will play his first game for Ireland since November 2013

O'Brien will be joined by Peter O'Mahony and Six Nations debutant Jordi Murphy in the back-row, after Schmidt decided against risking the experienced Jamie Heaslip, who is still recovering from a shoulder niggle.

Mike Ross starts in the front-row despite recently losing his place in Leinster's starting XV to Marty Moore. Moore has been named as a replacement.

Ulster's Jared Payne is set to win his first Six Nations cap at outside centre, he will combine with Robbie Henshaw in the midfield.

The hosts will be desperate to avoid another Six Nations wooden spoon and put a disastrous 2014 behind them. The Azzurri mustered just one win in 2014, but coach Jacques Brunel sees their three Six Nations home fixtures as an opportunity for atonement.

In the first of those games, his experienced team, which boasts a grand total of 660 caps, will attempt to emulate their historic 2013 home win over the Irish.

Brunel has made two changes to the side that lost 22-6 to South Africa in November. Zebre's George Biagi replaces the injured Quintin Geldenhuys while Francesco Minto returns to the starting line-up, in the absence of Samuel Vunisa.

Biagi will pack down in the engine room with Newcastle's Joshua Furno and Minto will join up with Alessandro Zanni and Captain Sergio Parisse in the back row. 

4-Sergio-Parisse-AFP.jpg
Sergio Parisse will lead out Italy in Rome

New Zealand-born Kelly Haimona, who has as many international caps as his opposite man, makes his Six Nations debut at fly half, after some encouraging displays in the autumn series. 

TEAMS:

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, J Payne, R Henshaw, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; D Toner, P O'Connell (capt); P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Murphy.

Replacements: S Cronin, J Cronin, M Moore, I Henderson, T O'Donnell, I Boss, I Madigan, F Jones.

Italy: Andrea Masi; Leonardo Sarto, Michele Campagnaro, Luca Morisi, Luke McLean; Kelly Haimona, Edoardo Gori; Matias Aguero, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Martin Castrogiovanni; Josh Furno, George Fabio Biagi; Alessandro Zanni, Francesco Minto, Sergio Parisse.

Replacements: Andrea Manici, Alberto De Marchi, Dario Chistolini, Marco Fuser, Robert Barbini, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tommaso Allan, Giovanbattista Venditti.

KICK-OFF: Saturday, 14.30

PAST THREE MEETINGS:

Ireland 46 Italy 7, Six Nations, Mach 2014

Italy 22 Ireland 15, Six Nations, March 2013

Ireland 42 Italy 10, Six Nations February 2012

STATS:

Ireland have won their last seven Test matches

Ireland have scored more than 21 points in each of their last seven victories

Italy are the only side to have achieved fewer grand slams than Ireland

TV: Live on BBC 1 at 14.30

Natwest1.jpg

NatWest are proud to support Rugby. Current account customers can win exclusive rugby experiences. It’s not who you know, it’s who you bank with. Visit natwest.com/rugbyrewards

Comments