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RBS 6 Nations Preview: Italy v Ireland

RBS 6 Nations Preview: Italy v Ireland

The curtain comes down on Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations campaign at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, with Declan Kidney’s men determined to sign off with a win over what is sure to a fired-up Italian team.

2013 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, March 16

ITALY (5th) v IRELAND (4th), Stadio Olimpico, 3.30pm local time/2.30pm Irish time (live RTÉ Two/BBC One)

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Team News: The Ireland team to play Italy in the RBS 6 Nations Championship this Saturday has been named. The side shows just one change to the starting line-up from the last outing against France.

Jonathan Sexton was originally due to start at out-half, but he went over on his foot in training on Thursday and a scan has confirmed that he has torn a tendon in his left foot.

That means Paddy Jackson will continue in the number 10 jersey for his third successive Ireland cap, with centres Brian O’Driscoll and Luke Marshall having recovered from their respective knocks. It will be O’Driscoll’s 125th appearance this weekend.

Craig Gilroy, who missed the game against France with a groin strain, returns on the right wing in place of Fergus McFadden who is unavailable due to a rib injury.

There are also further changes among the replacements with Devin Toner coming into the matchday squad in place of Donncha O’Callaghan.

Paul Marshall is the reserve scrum half, one of two players who come make their debuts off the bench – the other being replacement prop Stephen Archer.

Head coach Declan Kidney said: “A dry track would be great obviously, given some of the conditions we’ve been playing in. But Italy are playing really strong too. If we can go out, represent Ireland to the best of our ability, and come out with a win it would be some achievement given everything that has been thrown at the lads.

“That’s a recognition of how strong Italy have become. This is their third year in the PRO12, they’ve been getting stronger every year. Two years ago, it was a last-minute drop goal that got us the win.

“I’m sure that Italy are sniffing a little bit of blood against us, judging by the comments after their last match, they probably sense that we’re a little vulnerable. So to get a result would be quite an achievement.

“Devin Toner is a purely selection issue. The Italian lineout is very strong so it’s just prudent to have a balance on that side of things this time. He has been going well for us in training so it’s a recognition of both.

“It’s tough on Donncha. It’s always tough on anyone, whether it’s their first cap or a 100th. I would say Donncha is a long way from his last cap. That’s just the selection for this match.

“There’s many more to come. He’ll be playing away next year as well and there’s nothing to say he won’t be in for the next match when that’s selected.”

Meanwhile, a thigh injury has ruled experienced prop Martin Castrogiovanni out of Italy’s final game of the Championship. He was set to make his 50th Six Nations appearance.

Instead, Benetton Treviso’s Lorenzo Cittadini will start on the tighthead side of the Italian scrum, as he did in last year’s 42-10 defeat to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

Racing Metro’s Andrea Lo Cicero, Italy’s most-capped player with 102 caps, will also take over from loosehead Alberto de Marchi who drops to the replacements bench.

The third and final change in personnel sees the injured Robert Barbieri (hip) make way for Simone Favaro at openside flanker.

Cittadini, who was an influential first half replacement against England, said: “There are a lot of positives, the start against France which was a great game. We can’t forget the two less impressive games we played against Scotland and Wales.

“This final game could make a big difference in how we look at this Six Nations. A win would certainly make a massive difference to the overall assessment of the competition.

“Of course we can find positives in the defeats though, the possession and territory has been in our favour in almost every game.

“We’ve never beaten Ireland with this squad so there is a lot of motivation. To do it at home, in the last game of the Six Nations in front of our great fans, it’s very important.

“But more important than the result is that we play well. If we play at our best the results will come, but that’s what we have to do.”

ITALY: Andrea Masi (London Wasps); Giovanbattista Venditti (Zebre), Gonzalo Canale (Stade Rochelais), Gonzalo Garcia (Zebre), Luke McLean (Benetton Treviso); Luciano Orquera (Zebre), Edoardo Gori (Benetton Treviso); Andrea Lo Cicero (Racing Metro 92), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso), Lorenzo Cittadini (Benetton Treviso), Quintin Geldenhuys (Zebre), Joshua Furno (Narbonne), Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso), Simone Favaro (Benetton Treviso), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais) (capt).

Replacements: Davide Giazzon (Zebre), Michele Rizzo (Benetton Treviso), Alberto de Marchi (Benetton Treviso), Antonio Pavanello (Benetton Treviso), Franceso Minto (Benetton Treviso), Paul Derbyshire (Benetton Treviso), Tobias Botes (Benetton Treviso), Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Treviso).

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Craig Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster), Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster) (capt).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution/Munster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Paul Marshall (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Television Match Official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)


Match Odds (Paddy Power): Italy to win: 15/8; Draw: 20/1; Ireland to win: 4/9

Pre-Match Quotes: Jamie Heaslip (Ireland) – “It’s another massive, very good back row to go up against. I haven’t played against Sergio (Parisse) yet this season but I’ve played against the others in the Rabo.

“(Alessandro) Zanni is the one that stands out for me. He gets through a lot of work and combines quite well with Sergio and has caused a lot of problems when playing for Treviso.

“Italy hold onto the ball quite well in our red zone, their green zone, and put it through a lot of phases. They are holding onto the ball for 10 and 12 phases and wearing teams down and getting a lot of rewards from it with penalties or grinding it out and getting mismatches on the edges.

“I would love it this weekend if we came out all guns blazing, were clinical and take every opportunity that comes our way. Sometimes it doesn’t work that way and you have to grind it. Italy aren’t going to make things easy at all.

“The whole squad is 100% behind the management. The staff, the management, everyone here, we’re just focused on the game this week.

“No one knows what is going to happen in the future. I don’t have a crystal ball with me unfortunately, otherwise I’d be making a lot of money at Cheltenham!”

Jacques Brunel (Italy) – “I remember the last time we played Ireland, we conceded 40 points in Dublin. At half-time it was close but then in the first two minutes of the second half we conceded two tries.

“But we have to look at Ireland in this tournament, they have beaten the Welsh and haven’t conceded tries against England, Scotland and only one at the death against France, from a quickly-taken penalty.

“They have a very well-structured defence, so it will be very difficult for us. They have very few weaknesses.”

Pre-Match Links –

Irish Rugby TV: Rob Kearney

Irish Rugby TV: Quinny And Rala

Irish Rugby TV: Craig Gilroy

We’re Determined To Finish On A High – McCarthy

Head-To-Head: Ireland v Italy

Ireland v Italy: Facts & Figures

Recent Meetings –

2010: RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 29 Italy 11, Croke Park
2011: RBS 6 Nations: Italy 11 Ireland 13, Stadio Flaminio; Rugby World Cup Pool C: Ireland 36 Italy 6, Otago Stadium, Dunedin
2012: RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 42 Italy 10, Aviva Stadium

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