Ireland v Italy player ratings

Man-for-man marking from the Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin

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The Independent Online

Following the contest between Ireland and Italy we take a look at how the individual players performed.

Do you agree with our ratings? Leave your thoughts and comments below.


Cian Healy: Despite being knocked out cold in the first half by an errant knee, Healy contributed to a ding dong battle in the scrum and made his usual quota of gain line breaking bursts.  6

Rory Best: Has been Ireland’s Mr Consistent since the World Cup but not today. Decent in the loose but line-out overthrow which led to the solitary Italian touch down was indicative of a patchy day at both set pieces. 5

Mike Ross: Ireland’s best front row performer was the key difference in the scrum – note when he minced Rizzo in a set piece early the second half. But the 19 stone prop  has added dynamic loose running to his armoury. An important player becoming increasingly indispensible. 7

Donncha O’Callaghan: The Munster warhorse may be coming to the end of his almost endless stint as Ireland’s first choice number four. Worked tirelessly, as ever, but will be replaced by the more youthful dynamism, and form, of Donnacha  Ryan, possibly as soon as next week. 5

Paul O’Connell: Captain O’Colossus likely went in at half-time dissatisfied with his own first period performance which, like his team’s, was patchy and ill-disciplined. So in the second half he came out and smashed the Italians, pushing them back with unstoppable running, almost scoring a couple of tries and even managing an eye-catching ball rip from Azzurri talisman Parisse. Business as usual then. 8

Stephen Ferris: Ireland’s best back rower was a standout performer in an otherwise occasionally dubious team performance. Made about three or four sublime line breaks and really deserved a try of his own. Outstanding. 8

Sean O’Brien: Is it second season syndrome for last years European Player of the Year? May be too early to say yet, but in two games since the World Cup he’s gone from Ireland’s most potent ball carrier to their least effective. Will need to up it next week against Dusautoir and co. 5

Jamie Heaslip: Still not as visible with ball-in-hand as we know he could be – but still the Leinster number eight breaks the first tackle every time and  rarely wastes possession. Moreover ripped the ball from Italian  hands a couple of times for handy turnovers and became more prominent as Ireland’s dominance told late on. 6

Conor Murray:   Ouch. The young Munster scrum half has been on a stratospheric rise since the World Cup but fell to earth today during 50-odd uncertain and misfiring minutes. Poor, wasteful box-kicking and glacier-slow ball delivery, combined with Eoin Reddan’s immediate impact off the bench, surely ensures he won’t start in Paris. Hard lesson but he’ll be better for it. 4

Jonathan Sexton:   Struggled to get into the game in the first half but became more influential, particularly when Leinster team-mate Reddan was providing the ammunition. Had a crucial hand in Bowe’s game sealing try and point kicking was superb. 7

Andrew Trimble:   Was a little anonymous on the wing for long periods as Ireland struggled to get the back line going but managed to grab an opportunistic counter attacking try right at the death. 6

Gordon D’Arcy:    Needed a big game and delivered – kind of. Another player pinged repeatedly for ill-discipline by referee Craig Joubert, but brought the crowd to life with a scything break in the first half and caused the Italian defence plenty of headaches with non-stop clever running. Better. 7

Keith Earls: Long mooted to be O’Driscoll’s long-term successor, Earls today had the opportunity to prove why and took his try excellently. Struggled to exert influence throughout but another who became more prominent with better ball in the second half. 6

Tommy Bowe: Another who needed to prove a point – two tries later, his importance to this Ireland team is underlined. Popped up infield repeatedly and was a constant threat with sniping running. 7

Rob Kearney: Ireland’s best attacker throughout, this was vintage Kearney. Regularly punctured the Azzurri defence with lightening fast counter attacks and dependable as ever under the high ball. His best game for Ireland in some time. 9

Pick of the replacements – Eoin Reddan:   While it’s true ruck ball tends to quicken in the second half, Reddan’s introduction was still crucial in getting fast ball to the Irish backline. Replacing Murray’s slow delivery with pace allowed Ireland to go for the jugular and effectively end the Italian challenge. 7


Michele Rizzo:   Dominated in the scrum by Mike Ross. Italy will really miss Martin Castrogiovanni on this evidence. 4

Leonardo Ghiraldini: In the absence of Castrogiovanni, the hooker appeared fired up for this one, particularly in a fiery first half performance. But was eventually extinguished by clinical Irish scores. 6

Lorenzo Cittadini: Achieved parity with Cian Healy at the scrum and got though a mountain of work but quickly tired in the second half. 5

Quentin Geldenhuys: The South-African born lock successfully disrupted an inconsistent Irish line-out but couldn’t live with O’Callaghan, O’Connell and substitute Ryan in the second half. 5

Marco Bortolami: Another who looked useful in the line-out and worked extremely hard to halt the frequent excursions of Paul O’Connell and Ireland’s prime ball carriers. 6

Alessandro Zanni: Anonymous. Didn’t see much of the ball and appeared more visible when desperately hanging on to Stephen Ferris when the Ulster flanker powered forward as the game progressed. 5

Robert Barbieri: One of Italy’s best performers, the Canadian born flanker appears a great ball carrier and created the move for the Azzurri’s solitary try with an exceptional carry deep into Irish territory. 8

Sergio Parisse: Even more frustrating game than usual for the Italy captain. The effort of him and his team didn’t deserve a 32 point defeat. In typical fashion the Argentine born flanker claimed Italy’s try, which was as close as the Azzurri got. 7

Edoardo Gori: The functional scrum half  had a decent game but doesn’t seem  likely Gori will ever be a creative enough 9 to fire the back line. Oddly his fly-half partner today might. 5

Tobias Botes: South African  born scrum-half playing fly-half for Italy? Sure why not, thought Italy coach  Jacques Brunel (possibly). Well one primary reason is Botes ain’t much of a kicker. However he was often at the heart of Italy’s best moves, delivering accurate, snappy passes and making clever runs. Play him at scrum-half Jacques. 6

Luke McLean:   Had his hands full tracking a strong Bowe today, and saw very little of the ball in an attacking sense. Unfortunate since he’s a decent runner when given the opportunity. 6

Alberto Sgarbi:  Big bruiser at centre easily dwarfed Ireland’s pair of D’Arcy and Earls but failed to make any inroads of note. Popped up often in the first half when Italy were exerting some pressure but never threatened the Irish defence. 5

Tommaso Benvenuti:  Highly rated 21-year-old will have better days. Has decent skill but ran up too many blind alleys today. 5

Giovanbattista Venditti: Scored his first try for Italy last time out against England but never came within a sniff of  the try line in Dublin. 5

Andrea Masi: Ireland targeted him under the high-ball and he was fortunate not be out-caught once or twice. But a willing counter attacker who found his chances with ball-in-hand limited. 6

Pick of the replacements –Kris Burton :  None of Italy’s replacements were particularly noticeable but Burton gets the shout simply because he can kick a rugby ball a whole lot better than Tobias Botes. 6