SEXTON RECALLED AS FARRELL MAKES SEVEN CHANGES FOR ITALY
Johnny Sexton returns to captain the Ireland side for their Round 3 clash against Italy, as one of seven changes made by Andy Farrell ahead of this Saturday’s clash at Stadio Olimpico.
The Men in Green are still searching for their first victory in this year’s Championship and have Leinster man Sexton back after the fly-half missed the 15-13 defeat to France in Round 2.
Sexton will form a half-back partnership with clubmate Jamison Gibson-Park, who continues at No.9 with Conor Murray missing out once again due to a hamstring injury.
James Ryan also returns to the second row after injury to partner Iain Henderson, who keeps his starting spot after captaining the side last time out against Les Bleus.
Robbie Henshaw will earn his 50th international cap in Rome this weekend, lining up alongside Garry Ringrose in the midfield, while Jordan Larmour comes in to start on the wing, with James Lowe on the opposite flank and Hugo Keenan completing the back three – making the backline an all-Leinster affair.
There is a completely new front row for the trip to Rome with Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong all coming into the starting XV, while Tadhg Beirne shifts to the back row.
Beirne will be operating at blindside flanker against Franco Smith’s side, with Will Connors at openside and CJ Stander at No.8.
There are two uncapped players on the bench this weekend, with Craig Casey and Ryan Baird in line for their first international caps if called upon.
Completing the bench is Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Jack Conan, Billy Burns and Keith Earls.
SMITH STICKS WITH SAME STARTING XV FOR IRELAND ENCOUNTER
Franco Smith has named an unchanged starting XV from Italy’s Round 2 defeat to England ahead of this weekend’s clash with Ireland at Stadio Olimpico.
The Azzurri go into the weekend looking for their first victory of the 2021 Championship, having also been defeated by France in Round 1, while the visitors are also yet to record a victory.
Monty Ioane continues on the wing in Rome, fresh from his first try for his country in the defeat at Twickenham last time out, while Jacopo Trulla and Luca Sperandio complete the back three.
Juan Ignacio Brex and Carlo Canna continue in the centres, with the latter set to make his 50th international appearance against the Men in Green, making him the most capped man in the starting XV.
Paolo Garbisi and Stephen Varney are the half-backs once more, while Michele Lamaro takes his place at No.8 alongside flankers Sebastian Negri and Johan Meyer.
Luca Bigi will captain the side for the 11th time this weekend as he lines up at hooker for his 34th international cap, with Marco Riccioni and Andrea Lovotti as props, while David Sisi and Marco Lazzaroni complete the XV in the second row.
On the bench, Smith has Gianmarco Lucchesi, Cherif Traorè, Giosue Zilocchi and Niccolo Cannone, as well as Maxime Mbandà, Callum Braley and Mattia Bellini to call one, with the latter two included in the squad for the first time this year.
Ahead of the match Smith said: “We worked a lot on ourselves, focusing on our game plan. Against Ireland we aim to show the same attitude we showed in the last match with the aim of taking another step forward on our path.”
Date: Saturday, February 27
Venue: Stadio Olimpico
Kick-off: 15:15 local (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Romain Poite (France)
Italy: 15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Montanna Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 David Sisi, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Luca Bigi (c), 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Cherif Traore’, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Maxime Mbanda’, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Federico Mori, 23 Mattia Bellini
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jonathan Sexton (c), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Will Connors, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Keith Earls