Six Nations week one round-up: England struggle as Ireland make statement

Ireland resume their quest for a Six Nations Grand Slam following an absolutely epic victory over France.

The Irish arrive in Rome to face Italy in fine form having won 19 of their last 21 Tests, sitting pretty at the top of the world rankings.

The Azzurri have mustered just one victory in the 23 total Six Nations encounters between these sides, with a key goal this tournament to end a 23-game streak of home defeats

After succumbing to England 31-14 last time out at Twickenham, Italy will hope to give the Irish a scare like they did against France in the opener.

Follow all the action from the Stadio Olimpico below:

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Italy vs Ireland

Up the steps and out into the afternoon come Ireland, James Ryan leading the way, Craig Casey with a shuffle left and right to warm the ankles.

Michele Lamaro heads the Italian line, out to a healthy roar from the crowd.

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 14:09

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A charming Rome day

There is some rain forecast in Rome later but, for now, it’s a very pleasant early spring afternoon in the Italian capital. The crowd looked slightly disappointing for their tournament opener against France but Six Nations executives felt that was somewhat down to it being held on a Sunday – the television audience was very, very good, I’m told. Hopefully there will be a lively atmosphere today with the potential Grand Slammers in town.

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 13:50

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Ireland plan to ‘rough up’ Ange Capuozzo

There was a crackle and a fizz of anticipation every time Ange Capuozzo got the ball at Twickenham two weeks ago, and the young full back managed to cut England open a couple of times even with reasonably limited opportunities. While the attention on Capuozzo does mean the development of some of his backline colleagues has been slightly overlooked, he is such a threat in open space, and Ireland have come armed with a plan to counter him.

“He’s an eyes-up player so I think if we can get our hands on him and rough him up a bit that would help us,” Mack Hansen said this week of how the visitors will try to handle the 23-year-old.

“He’s not the world’s biggest player but he’s so quick that we’re probably going to have hunt in threes to take care of him.

“But when it comes to it, we’re going to have to focus on every player in that backline as well – they’re all super-quick whippets.”

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 13:43

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Italy’s own midfield changes

Italy also have a new 10-12 axis, and while Paolo Garbisi’s return is pleasing news for Kieran Crowley, the head coach’s selection of Tommaso Menoncello in the centres is much more intriguing. The young back has been on the wing for the first two rounds of the championship but sees his future in midfield, where his blend of physical traits and defensive nous should make him an ideal fit. During his brief stint at Benneton, former England defence coach Paul Gustard described Menoncello as one of the five best young players he had ever worked with, which speaks to the 20-year-old’s talent.

He partners his Treviso colleague Juan Ignacio Brex, quietly having another impressive Six Nations. The pair have performed well for Benneton for the last 18 months or so and should test that changed Irish centre partnership.

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 13:36

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Will Ireland’s attack change without key playmakers?

There is a good chance that Ross Byrne might have started this game even if Johnny Sexton had been fully fit, and this should be a good challenge for Sexton’s club understudy. Both he and Craig Casey were impressive in imprinting their own particular style on Ireland’s patterns to see out the win against France – Byrne’s varied kicking game should test Italy’s back three.

The 27-year-old might have liked to have Garry Ringrose alongside him, given how important a cog the centre is in linking everything together both for club and country, but a beefy midfield of Bundee Aki and Stuart McCloskey only adds to Ireland’s carrying threat. Could we see a slightly tweaked approach in phase play?

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 13:30

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Team News – Ireland

Ireland may be well placed to continue their Grand Slam chase, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been plenty of bumps in the road to navigate over during the course of this tournament. Tadhg Beirne was lost for the rest of the tournament in the exertions of achieving victory over France, while Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose are also missing – the centre withdrawn only yesterday.

With Sexton absent, there will of course be plenty of focus on how Ross Byrne fills his Leinster teammate’s ten shirt after an impressive supporting role against the French. Craig Casey is in to the starting side, too, while Caelan Doris shifts to six to accommodate Jack Conan in the back row.

Ireland XV: Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Finlay Bealham; Iain Henderson, James Ryan (capt.); Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan; Craig Casey, Ross Byrne; James Lowe, Bundee Aki, Stuart McCloskey, Mack Hansen; Hugo Keenan.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O’Toole, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony; Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Jimmy O’Brien.

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 13:25

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Team News – Italy

A handful of alterations for Italy, who are boosted by the return of Paolo Garbisi at fly-half. The young ten had only a watching brief for the first two rounds but is fit to take his place in a remodelled midfield also now containing Tommaso Menoncello – he and partner Juan Ignacio Brex have done plenty of fun things for Benetton this season.

Simone Ferrari steps in for Marco Riccioni in the front row, while the bench is tweaked, too as Kieran Crowley strays from a six-two split to a more conventional five-three.

Italy XV: Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari; Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza; Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro (capt.), Lorenzo Cannone; Stephen Varney, Paolo Garbisi; Pierre Bruno, Tommaso Menoncello, Juan Ignacio Brex, Edoardo Padovani; Ange Capuozzo.

Replacements: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Marco Riccioni, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli; Alessandro Fusco, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Allan.

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 13:22

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Italy vs Ireland – team news

Right, kick off in Rome is less than an hour away, so let’s take a closer look at those two sides and some key areas worth watching this afternoon…

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 13:18

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Italy vs Ireland

Andy Farrell’s men head to Stadio Olimpico on the back of convincing bonus-point wins over Wales and France.

Here, the Press Association pick out some of the main talking points ahead of Saturday afternoon’s round-three clash.

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 13:12

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Andy Farrell wary of ‘serious threat’ posed to Ireland by resurgent Italy

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell admits resurgent Italy pose a “serious threat” to his side’s aspirations of Guinness Six Nations glory.

The world’s top-ranked nation head to Rome in title-winning form on the back of resounding bonus-point wins over Wales and France but wary of coming unstuck.

While Italy have been perennial wooden spoon winners, they recorded statement wins over the Welsh and Australia in 2022 before giving reigning Grand Slam champions France a major scare in a 29-24 defeat at the start of this year’s championship.

Farrell believes the Azzurri, whose only Six Nations success over the Irish came a decade ago, now have sufficient talent to supplement their passion and is braced for a tricky trip to Stadio Olimpico.

“We’ve full respect for Italy,” he said.

“Italy are obviously chasing that win at home and it’s a big scalp, so we know the emotion that they’ve always had, but the skill that they’ve put in with that now makes them a serious threat to us.

“We’re aware of that, and our preparation says so. There’s a realisation of what we’re up against this week and it’ll be a tough one.”

Harry Latham-Coyle25 February 2023 13:05



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