Picking An Ireland Team To Take On Italy This Weekend

Home advantage.

After last weekend’s heroics against France in Paris, Ireland’s attention now turns to a clash with Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin this weekend.

The fixture is the first of three home games in-a-row for Joe Schmidt’s men, with Wales and Scotland still to come, followed by a mouth-watering clash with England in Twickenham on Paddy’s Day.

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While Ireland will be expected to win, and win comfortably, Schmidt is still expected to field a strong starting line-up. A few names will be rested, but the Italians can’t be underestimated. Especially when you consider a try-bonus win could be crucial come March 17.

Backs

If there’s one man that should be wrapped in cotton wool it’s Johnny Sexton. The Irish ten must be protected, and after 82 gruelling minutes on Saturday, he will likely be given the weekend off. Joey Carbery also needs more time at ten.

After that, we don’t expect a huge amount of changes. Jordan Larmour will likely be handed a start, especially considering Andrew Conway will be ruled out, but in where will he play?

We’re gonna put it out there, and predict he’ll slot in at fullback. Rob Kearney is no spring chicken theses days, and Schmidt might have to rest him so he’s ready to go for the latter rounds.

Fergus McFadden will also likely be given a shot on the wing, with Jacob Stockdale struggling in defence. This is a 50/50 call, but at the same time McFadden deserves a chance given his form. Earls, Murray Aki and Henshaw should retain their spots in the starting line-up.

Forwards

Rory Best will likely continue to captain the side at hooker. The Ulsterman hasn’t a lot of minutes under his belt this year, and could do with the game time to make sure he’s firing come the Welsh game. Jack McGrath will also likely come in for Cian Healy.

The second-row is a tricky one. Expect Iain Henderson and/or James Ryan to be rested. Schmidt has Toner and Dillane to come in. Two excellent replacements. Tough to predict what will happen here just yet.

As for the back-row, expect to see the same three men that finished the game against France on Sunday. Replacements bench is anyone’s guess in a game like this.

IRELAND vs Italy

15. Jordan Larmour
14. Keith Earls
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Fergus McFadden
10. Joey Carbery
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. Ultan Dillane
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Dan Leavy
8. CJ Stander