5 Talking Points As Ireland Team Named For Six Nations Clash With Italy

Azzurri.

Joe Schmidt yesterday named his Ireland team for this Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Italy, making a number of changes from the team that defeated Scotland a fortnight ago.

The likes of Dave Kilcoyne, Sean Cronin, Jordi Murphy and Ultand Dillane come in for their first starts of the Championship, with guys like Jack Carty and Andrew Conway making the squad for the first time this year.

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Here are five talking points.

Sean Cronin’s first start.
In one of the craziest stats you’ll ever come across in rugby, Sean Cronin makes his first ever Six Nations start this weekend in an Ireland career that has spanned a decade so far. 68 Tests and 33 championship matches later. Crazy.

Sexton starts.
A lot of people thought Joey Carbery was going to get the nod this weekend, but a minor injury has kept him out with Sexton starting and Jack Carty in line to make his debut off the bench. But would Carbery have started if he was fit? Turns out no. Joe Schmidt said after announcing the team that starting Sexton was always the plan with the World Player of the Year in need of minutes more than the Munster man.

Ultan Dillane finally gets his chance.
The Connacht star has struggled big time over the last couple of years after initially bursting onto the international scene, with many expecting great things from him only for the 25-year-old to be largely overlooked. But he’s been in good form this season and will champing at the bit this weekend after waiting so long for another start with Ireland.

Can Conor Murray get back to his best?
There’s no doubt Conor Murray is a world class scrumhalf. But the Munster man hasn’t hit the kind of form we’re so used to since coming back from an extended period on the sidelines. If he can’t find some form this weekend – there’s something seriously wrong.

Ireland’s attack.
This time last year Ireland were scoring tries almost for fun. But they struggled big time against England this year and really should have been clinical enough to get the fourth against Scotland. No disrespect to Italy – but Ireland really should be putting up a score this weekend. Especially when Italy are missing guys like Negri and Parisse. There’s no excuse.