Ireland will hope to belatedly record their first victory of this year’s Six Nations when they take on Italy at the Stadio Olimpico today.
Andy Farrell’s side have endured a miserable start to this year’s tournament and are already all but out of the title picture, with a first defeat by France in Dublin for a decade following a 21-16 loss in Wales in which former Lions captain Peter O’Mahony received a red card after only 14 minutes.
However, they will be the overwhelming favourites to recover from those setbacks on Saturday and ease past an Italy side that are still awaiting a first Six Nations win since 2015.
A young Azzurri team under former Springbok Franco Smith were thrashed by France on opening weekend, before an improved showing still resulted in a 41-18 defeat against under-par England at Twickenham prior to the first rest weekend.
Italy vs Ireland date, time and venue
Italy vs Ireland is scheduled for a 2:15pm GMT kick-off today, February 27, 2021.
The match will be played without fans at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico due to ongoing restrictions related to Covid-19.
How to watch Italy vs Ireland
TV channel: Italy vs Ireland is being broadcast live on ITV today, with coverage beginning at 1:30pm.
Live stream: Fans can also watch the contest online via the ITV website or ITV Hub.
Italy vs Ireland team news
Italy have the rare luxury of a full squad to choose from this weekend and Smith has opted to name the same starting XV that played at Twickenham a fortnight ago, with Cherif Traore, Maxime Mbanda, Callum Braley and Mattia Bellini all coming onto the bench.
As for Ireland, Farrell has made seven changes to the side beaten by France, with influential captain Johnny Sexton returning at fly-half in place of Billy Burns and Jordan Larmour coming in for Keith Earls out wide.
There’s a new front row in Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong, with Rob Herring, Cian Healy and Andrew Porter replaced, while James Ryan returns in the second row and Will Connors starts at openside.
Tadhg Beirne moves to the blindside, with Rhys Ruddock dropping out.
There is still no Conor Murray for Ireland due to a hamstring injury, so Jamison Gibson-Park gets the start again at scrum-half.
The visitors’ bench includes two potential debutants in Craig Casey and Ryan Baird, but Josh van der Flier drops out of the matchday squad altogether.
Italy vs Ireland lineups
Italy: Trulla; Sperandio, Brex, Canna, Ioane; Garbisi, Varney; Lovotti, Bigi (c), Riccioni; Lazzaroni, Sisi; Negri, Meyer, Lamaro
Replacements: Lucchesi, Traore, Zilocchi, Cannone, Mbanda, Braley, Mori, Bellini
Ireland: Keenan; Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Sexton (c), Gibson-Park; Kilcoyne, Kelleher, Furlong; Henderson, Ryan; Beirne, Connors, Stander
Replacements: Herring, Healy, Porter, Baird, Conan, Casey, Burns, Earls
Italy vs Ireland head to head (h2h) history and results
Ireland have won 28 of the previous 32 matches between these two nations, including each of the last 10.
Italy’s sole win aside from a run of three victories in the 1990s came back in March 2013 - their only Six Nations triumph against Ireland to date.
Last year, Ireland ran in seven tries in a 50-17 demolition in Dublin.
Italy vs Ireland prediction
A disappointing start to the Six Nations for Ireland, but it’s been really fine margins with Burns’ costly late error against Wales and a scrappy affair versus the French in which they could easily have snatched victory at the death.
They will be eager to channel that frustration into a clash with Italy, who were improved against England but look certainties for the wooden spoon once again.
It’s impossible to look beyond anything other than a sizable away win here.
Italy vs Ireland betting odds and tips
Italy to win: 20/1
Ireland to win: 1/20
Odds via Betfair Exchange (subject to change). Click here to find out more.
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