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RBS 6 Nations Preview: Ireland v Italy

RBS 6 Nations Preview: Ireland v Italy

Ireland meet Italy for the second time in five months as they look to open their win account in the 2012 RBS 6 Nations. Paul O’Connell leads an unchanged team with Declan Kidney’s men facing into four matches in as many weeks.

2012 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, February 25

IRELAND (4th) v ITALY (6th), Aviva Stadium, 1.30pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC One)

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Team News: The Ireland team to play Italy in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday has been named.

The Ireland management has named the same starting line-up and replacements from the postponed game against France two weeks ago.

Centre Gordon D’Arcy will win his 65th cap for Ireland having first been capped against Romania in 1999. The uncapped Peter O’Mahony is included among the replacements.

Commenting on how stiff a challenge his side will face this weekend, Ireland head coach Declan Kidney said: “You might not have said it two or three years ago, but at the back of your mind you knew that if you stayed with Italy for 65-70 minutes, you’d have it over them in the last ten.

“But that certainly isn’t the case anymore, so it will be an 80-minute Test match. A few things ran our way the last time we played them in the World Cup and that can give them some extra motivation.

“Italy are playing with the ball in hand more than last year. They are retaining the ball very well and have the physicality to do that.

“If you look at last year’s Six Nations we were lucky to pull that one out of the fire at the end with a last-minute drop goal and I don’t see Saturday being any different.”

Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso’s Tobias Botes will slot in at out-half for Italy as one of four changes made by head coach Jacques Brunel for the trip to Dublin.

Botes takes the number 10 jersey from Kris Burton with their club-mates Michele Rizzo, a Championship debutant, and Lorenzo Cittadini, who stands in for the injured Martin Castrogiovanni, both starting in the front row.

Gonzalo Canale drops to the replacements bench to allow Alberto Sgarbi start at inside centre in a team which includes just one player who does not play his club rugby in Italy – captain Sergio Parisse from Stade Francais.

Giving his take on the Ireland side, Brunel remarked: “It’s a team with a lot of potential, they knew how to change it bit by bit and we can see that without (Brian) O’Driscoll and (Ronan) O’Gara who plays less.

“They’ve brought (Jonathan) Sexton back in, they changed the scrum half a year ago and they’ve modified their team while staying very competitive.

“They could have won just as easily as Wales. They’re two teams who are very close but in the game it went Wales’ way. Don’t forget Wales are the Six Nations favourites and they had a great World Cup.

“We can find a few excuses for Ireland but they deserved to win as much as Wales. They’re a physically strong team and they can play in all areas. (They can play) up front while they have enterprising backs and Tommy Bowe who scores a lot.”

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster) (capt), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster).

ITALY: Andrea Masi (Aironi Rugby); Giovanbattista Venditti (Aironi Rugby), Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Treviso), Alberto Sgarbi (Benetton Treviso), Luke McLean (Benetton Treviso); Tobias Botes (Benetton Treviso), Edoardo Gori (Benetton Treviso): Michele Rizzo (Benetton Treviso), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso), Lorenzo Cittadini (Benetton Treviso), Quintin Geldenhuys (Aironi Rugby), Marco Bortolami (Aironi Rugby), Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso), Robert Barbieri (Benetton Treviso), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais) (capt).

Replacements: Tommaso D’Apice (Aironi Rugby), Fabio Staibano (Aironi Rugby), Antonio Pavanello (Benetton Treviso), Simone Favaro (Aironi Rugby), Fabio Semenzato (Benetton Treviso), Kristopher Burton (Benetton Treviso), Gonzalo Canale (Clermont Auvergne).

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), David Changleng (Scotland)
Television Match Official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 1/14; Draw: 33/1; Italy to win: 9/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Stephen Ferris (Ireland) – “We need to be driving on the bus to (the Aviva Stadium) knowing that we’re going to win. That’s the feeling you have to get at your home stadium.

“It comes with results, big victories and strong performances. We should start that this weekend. New Zealand are the only team who have really beaten us (at the new stadium). In the rest of the games we probably beat ourselves.

“We had the opportunity to do that against Wales three weeks ago. But we wouldn’t be talking about this (home record) if we had beaten Wales, we had the chance to be more clinical and grind it out but we didn’t take it.

“We need to be a bit smarter and when we do have our foot on opponents’ throats, we should keep it there because we’ve let teams off the hook.”

Lorenzo Cittadini (Italy) – “I feel ready. Actually to be sincere, I have never felt so ready. To return to the national side after a serious injury in 2008, when I fractured my tibia and fibula, is a great line to have crossed.

“The muscle tone of my right leg has never returned to its former level and I have to do a lot of physiotherapy in the gym and elsewhere but the passion I have inside helps me.

“Ireland? We know that it won’t be easy in Dublin but we have studied our opponents well and we go there to get a result.

“It will be an important test to check where our growth is. We need to do well in the scrum. Jacques (Brunel) wants 100 percent from us so we have a stable platform. We won’t let him down.”

Pre-Match Links –

Kidney Primes Ireland For Italy Clash

Irish Rugby TV: Keith Earls

Paul’s Diary: Frustration, Italy And Marbles

Best: Scrum Is Well Equipped For Italian Test

D’Arcy Relishing Chance To ‘Set Record Straight’

Head-To-Head: Ireland v Italy

Recent Meetings –

2009: RBS 6 Nations: Italy 9 Ireland 38, Stadio Flaminio
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

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