Italy v Ireland - Teams and Predictions
SIX NATIONS, ROUND THREE: Flyhalf Paolo Garbisi has urged Italy to seize the day on Saturday to end their Six Nations drought against an Irish side who have lost their opening two games.
“This could be the right opportunity to get back winning,” insisted the 20-year-old. “They’ll want to make a breakthrough, we’re very focused.”
Garbisi has been tipped as one of Italy’s brightest hopes since his impressive senior debut against the Irish in the Six Nations in Dublin last October.
The young player knocked over an early penalty, and his slalom through the heart of the Irish defence in stoppage time for a try took the sting out of the 50-17 defeat, for a personal tally of 12 points.
The Azzurri host Andy Farrell’s side in their third match, looking to avoid a record-extending 30th consecutive defeat in the tournament going back against Scotland in 2015.
Italy have not beaten Ireland since the Six Nations in March 2013 in Rome.
This time the Irish arrive looking to avoid three opening losses for the first time since the 1998 Five Nations, when they ended up with the wooden spoon.
Italy’s future in the tournament has been called into question having taken the wooden spoon 15 times since joining the expanded championship in 2000.
But Farrell is taking nothing for granted having made seven changes including an all-new front row after a 13-15 defeat by France followed a 16-21 loss to Wales.
“I certainly feel they are good enough to stay in the long term,” said the Irish head coach.
“I can see the direction Franco [Smith] is taking them and it is the right one.
“It’s a newish group and that takes some time, but we are seeing the fruits of that already.
“They are strong but using new combinations takes time to gel and they will only get better.”
Smith stuck with his starting line-up from the 41-18 defeat to England, having also lost 50-10 to France in Rome.
“Against Ireland we aim to show the same attitude as in the last match with the aim of taking another step forward,” said Smith.
Garbisi, Marco Lazzaroni and captain Luca Bigi have become three stalwarts of the South African’s side.
🚛 𝗠𝘂𝗿𝗿𝗮𝘆 𝗰𝗿𝗮𝘀𝗵𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿 🟢
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 25, 2021
“In October I would not have expected to live weeks like this,” said Garbisi who will don the No.10 jersey for the eighth time on Saturday.
He enjoyed a rapid rise in 2020, going from playing for junior club Petrarca to ending the year as Italy’s flyhalf and goal-kicker after signing for Treviso in the first coronavirus lockdown.
“A lot of things have happened very quickly,” continued the law student at Padua University of a year in which he exceeded “even my wildest dreams”.
Garbisi said his points of reference are England rugby captain Owen Farrell and New Zealand legend Dan Carter.
“I would add Johnny Sexton,” the Treviso player told Gazzetta Dello Sport.
“Playing against him impressed me for his ability to control and anticipate.
“[Sexton] is a fundamental player for the team and not just because he is their captain.
“His harmony with [Conor] Murray, then, is of the highest level.”
Sexton returns after recovering from a head knock, but scrumhalf Murray remains out injured.
“Respecting the Italians, going over there with the right attitude, the right fight and the right want to play the game as it should be and having a clinical edge to back that up,” added Sexton of the performance he was looking for in Rome.
Players to watch:
For Italy: Young flyhalf Paolo Garbisi will get another opportunity to prove himself on the big stage. He has been tipped as one of Italy’s brightest hopes. Carlo Canna is a strong ball carrier in the midfield and cause a few problems. The Italians also have a dynamic back row in the form of Michele Lamaro, Johan Meyer and Sebastian Negri.
For Ireland: Flyhalf and captain Johnny Sexton is back to control things and he will want to lift his team after their two defeats in the tournament so far. Wing James Lowe is deadly with the ball out wide, while Robbie Henshaw can unlock any defence in the midfield. Up front, James Ryan returns to give his pack some much-need muscle.
Head to head
Italy flyhalf Paolo Garbisi spoke of how much he learned watching Johnny Sexton play and it will be interesting to see if the youngster has a few tricks up his sleeve to unsettle one of the best. There will also be a spotlight in the battle between the back rows as there is plenty of speed and power in that department in both teams.
@rugby365com: Ireland by 18 points.
Italy: 15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Monty 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 (captain), 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Niccolo 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 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tadhg Beirne, 6 Will Connors, 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.
Date: Saturday, February 27
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 15.15 (14.15 UK & Ireland time; 14.15 GMT)
Expected weather: There will be sunny skies with a high of 19°C. Winds WNW at 10 to 15 km/h.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Romain Poite (France)
AFP & @rugby365com