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Six Nations | Group Stage
Feb 11, 2024 at 3pm UK
Crowley (7'), Sheehan (24', 50'), Conan (37'), Lowe (62'), Nash (78')

Preview: Ireland vs. Italy - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Six Nations clash between Ireland and Italy, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

The second round of matches in the 2024 Six Nations will conclude, with Ireland taking on Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday evening.

Ireland made an excellent start to the competition and have taken the early lead in the standings, while Italy picked up a bonus point in their opener, which sees them enter week two in fifth place.

Match preview

Ireland's Dan Sheehan celebrates after the match on September 28, 2023© Reuters

Ireland were excellent in the 2023 Six Nations as they proved to be too good for the other five teams in the competition and are now looking to win their first-ever back-to-back Grand Slam.

The Shamrocks overcame their Rugby World Cup disappointment by kicking off this year's Six Nations in style, handing France their biggest home defeat (38-17) last weekend at Stade Velodrome.

Andy Farrell's side's previous set-piece troubles appeared to dissipate as they dominated at the lineout, securing all 13 of their own throws - a flawless record unmatched by any other team on the opening weekend.

However, discipline emerged as a focal point for improvement for the Irish this week as only Scotland's 16 penalties conceded were more than Ireland's 13 across all teams in the first round of the competition.

Still, the reigning champions will be brimming with confidence after their commanding victory last week and will look forward to facing an Italian side that have only beaten them once in the last 11 years and never on their home patch.

Italy's Montanna Ioane celebrates scoring their third try on September 27, 2023© Reuters

Meanwhile, Italy made major strides forward in their performances in last year's Six Nations, although it was not enough for them to avoid receiving the wooden spoon for an eighth successive campaign.

The Azzurri endured a disappointing World Cup in the autumn, suffering hefty defeats in the pool stage against both France and New Zealand, but bounced back well in their opening match of this competition last week.

Italy once again showed their fight in round one as they went toe-to-toe with England - the only team they have never beaten in the Six Nations - but despite their efforts, they came up three points short (27-24) of what would have been a historic victory.

Gonzalo Quesada's side will need to build on that performance, though, as they made a similarly positive start to the competition last year against France before losing each of their remaining matches by double-digit deficits.

Apart from three victories for Italy in the mid-1990s outside of the Six Nations, Italy have been defeated in every rugby encounter between the two nations across all competitions and are currently on a 14-match losing streak against the Shamrocks.

Ireland Six Nations form:

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Ireland form (all competitions):
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Italy Six Nations form:

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Italy form (all competitions):
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Team News

Ireland's Tadhg Furlong reacts after Jamison Gibson-Park scores their second try on October 14, 2023© Reuters

Peter O'Mahony has been ruled out of contention for this match after being withdrawn in their opener against France, which will see Caelan Doris captain the side while also switching from number eight to openside flanker.

Doris's move to the second row affords Ryan Baird a Six Nations opportunity at the six position, while Jack Conan is set to be brought in at number eight by Farrell.

Craig Casey will replace Jamison Gibson-Park, forming an all-Munster half-back pairing with Jack Crowley, and Stuart McCloskey will come in to allow Bundee Aki the afternoon off.

Quesada has made four changes to his starting lineup for Sunday's clash, the first being the return of Ange Capuozzo, who was unable to participate in last week's match against England.

In addition to Capuozzo's return, there is one more alteration in the backline, with Stephen Varney stepping in to replace Alessandro Garbisi, who is omitted from the matchday squad.

In the forwards, there are two forced changes due to the absence of back-row players Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone, who both withdrew earlier in the week due to injuries.

Consequently, Michele Lamaro will move from openside flanker to number eight, Manuel Zuliani will start at number seven and Alessandro Izekor is set to make his first Test start as he fills in for Negri on the blindside.

Ireland starting lineup: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Caelan Doris (c), 6 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Tom O'Toole, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jordan Larmour

Italy starting lineup: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro (c), 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Danilo Fischetti

Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, Andrea Zambonin, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori

SM words green background

We say: Ireland 38-17 Italy

While Italy showed their grit last weekend, it is difficult to make much of a case for them here against the might of the Irish. Ireland's performance against France last week was incredible, and we feel they will not let up this weekend.

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