Six Nations: Italy v Ireland match preview, team news and statistics

Ireland's Johnny Sexton
Ireland's Johnny Sexton has been passed fit to face Italy having suffered an ankle injury and a concussion during their win over Scotland last time out
Six Nations
Venue: Stadio Olimpico Date: Sunday, 24 February Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and Radio Ulster; live text on BBC Sport website and Sport app.

Team news & line-ups

Peter O'Mahony captains an Ireland side that includes first-choice half-backs Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray for Sunday's Six Nations match in Rome.

Ireland make four changes, all in the pack, with hooker Sean Cronin replacing skipper Rory Best to earn his full Six Nations debut in his 68th Test.

With talismanic skipper and number eight Sergio Parisse absent because of concussion Italy make five changes.

Four are in the pack with Braam Steyn moving from flanker to number eight.

Italy: 15-Hayward, 14-Padovani, 13-Campagnaro, 12-Morisi, 11-Esposito, 10-Allan, 9- Tebaldi; 1-Lovotti, 2-Ghiraldini (capt), 3-Ferrari, 4-Ruzza, 5-Budd, 6-Tuivaiti, 7-Mbanda, 8-Steyn

Replacements: 16-Bigi, 17-Traore, 18-Pasquali, 19-Sisi, 20-Zanni, 21-Guglielmo Palazzani, 22-McKinley, 23-Castello.

Ireland: 15-Kearney, 14-Earls, 13-Farrell, 12-Aki, 11-Stockdale, 10-Sexton, 9-Murray; 1-Kilcoyne, 2-Cronin, 3-Furlong, 4-Dillane, 5-Roux, 6-O'Mahony (capt), 7-O'Brien, 8-Murphy

Replacements: 16-Scannell, 17-McGrath, 18-Ryan, 19-Henderson, 20-Van der Flier, 21-Cooney, 22-Carty, 23-Conway.

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Ireland need to be wary of Italy power - Schmidt

Commentator's notes

Andrew Cotter: No thoughts of Ireland resting players as Wales did for their trip to Rome - Garry Ringrose will be missed in the centre and, of course, captain Rory Best, but Joe Schmidt has named as strong a side as he can in search of a bonus-point win and perhaps also the kind of performance that has so far eluded the team ranked second in the world.

And Italy? Still looking to silence the eternal doubters and they have to do so without their talisman. Like Finn Russell, Sergio Parisse suffered a suspected concussion on club duty in France on the 'rest' weekend, so Braam Steyn gets to play in his preferred number eight position.

There will be no patriotic mixed feelings as Conor O'Shea tries to upset his own country, but expect Ireland to return from Rome with five points safely secured.

View from Ireland's camp

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: "Joey Carbery has a hamstring strain and wouldn't really have been available. It would have been too great a risk for him to feature.

"We probably would have started Johnny (Sexton) anyway to be honest. He's had one game and 23 minutes since the Munster game. He's had very little game time.

"And Joey has had a lot of game time and played the bulk of the game in Edinburgh."

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea: "We have chosen players who can be 100% physically ready. We have worked hard on the breakdown, we think it is one of the areas where we can put pressure on Ireland."

"If we can work on the things we can control we can be very competitive. The intensity must always be high: we are on the right track I'm sure, but the results must start to arrive too."

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Six Nations: Scotland 13-22 Ireland highlights

Match facts

Head-to-head

  • Italy's average losing margin in the last four meetings has been 45 points, conceding 34 tries in total.
  • Italy won three of the first four meetings between 1995-97 but have only won one of the resulting 25 (L24).

Italy

  • Italy have lost their last 19 matches in the tournament - a Championship record.
  • Since their March 2013 win over Ireland, they have only won one of their 27 Six Nations matches (L26).
  • Their tally of five tries from their opening two fixtures matches that of opponents Ireland.

Ireland

  • Ireland have won 19 of their last 21 matches in all competitions, losing two.
  • They have won four of their last five Six Nations away games, losing one.
  • Jacob Stockdale has scored eight tries in his seven Six Nations appearances - only six Ireland players have scored more in the Championship since 2000.

Match officials

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Wayne Barnes (England) & Karl Dickson (England)

TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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