4 Dec, 10:19
Grand Slam winners Fiona Coghlan and Nora Stapelton have returned the Women's RBS 6 Nations trophy to Chief Executive John Feehan at the Six Nations offices in Dublin.
Belfast Harlequins winger Paul McKenzie (pictured, above), Garryowen flanker Anthony Kavanagh and former Queen's University team mates Tommy Bowe, already a full international at 20, and Gareth Steenson, the World Cup golden boot winner and now installed as Irish captain, return as McDermott's charges bid for a repeat of last March's 33-0 hammering of the Azzurri at Thomond Park.
Dungannon out-half Steenson, who claimed a 64-point haul in last summer's tournament in Scotland, is one of eight Ulster players in the Irish starting line-up - an XV which has seen much AIB League action already this season.
Ballymena centre Andrew Trimble has top-scored in Division One for his club with six tries, Steenson has notched 74 points so far for his new club in Tyrone, and Belfast Harlequins trio McKenzie, Bowe and Mark Kettyle have all touched down in their side's six-game winning run to third in the table.
Nothing but a win should suffice for McDermott, assistant coach eleven months ago when UCC winger Richard Lane ran in a try hat-trick against the Azzurri.
Italian skipper Valerio Bernabr is banking his forwards' experience to halt Ireland's progression.
"I always want to win in this Six Nations,'' said the Calvisano lock - who debuted for John Kirwan's seniors against the USA last November.
"I'm really confident in this team - we have an experienced scrum, with eight players already involved in the past Six Nations Under-21 Championship and the World Cup.
"The backs are younger, but with a lot of talented players like Matteo Pratichetti, who played with Kirwan's team against the All-Blacks,'' he added.
''We saw the Irish team in the past World Cup and we know that, even if they have changed a lot of players, they are always a strong side. But if we'll play to our best then I think we can get a good result.''
RBS UNDER-21 SIX NATIONS: Italy U21 v Ireland U21, Otello Gerli Stadium, Udine RFC, 2.30pm
ITALY U21: Michele Sepe; Roberto Mariani, Enrico Patrizio, Matteo Pratichetti, Marco Rosa; Gregorio Rebecchini, Giulio Toniolatti; Adrien Vigne-Donati, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Alessio Battisti, Tommaso Reato, Valerie Bernabo (Capt), Emanuele Leonardi, Alessandro Zanni, Robert Barbieri. Replacements: Luigi Milani, Matteo Muccignat, Mauricio Lorenzi, Andrea Sacca, Stefano Canale, Cesare Marrucci, Ettore Boarato.
(15) Mark Kettyle (Belfast Harlequins) (14) Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins) (13) Tom Gleeson (UCC) (12) Andrew Trimble (Ballymena) (11) Paul McKenzie (Belfast Harlequins) (10) Gareth Steenson (Dungannon) (Capt) (9) Cillian Willis (UCD) (1) Michael Diffley (Buccaneers) (2) Joseph Merrigan (Corinthians) (3) John Andress (Belfast Harlequins) (4) Lewis Stevenson (Belfast Harlequins) (5) Mark Melbourne (Garryowen) (6) Brett McNamee (Northampton) (7) Anthony Kavanagh (Garryowen) (8) Stephen Ferris (Dungannon)
(16) Stuart Philpott (Saracens) (17) Eamonn Bracken (Buccaneers) (18) Trevor Richardson (Buccaneers) (19) Chris Henry (Malone) (20) David O'Leary (UCC) (21) Barry Keeshan (Cork Constitution) (22) Kieran Geraghty (London Irish)
Referee: Neil Ballard (Wales)
Wales U21 32 England U21 21 France U21 12 Scotland U21 8