Tuesday 12 December 2017

Ireland need to front up at Aviva

IT is difficult to get excited about Ireland at home to Italy. It must be close to what it is like for the All Blacks to tackle Ireland. You have to remove the predictability of the result to give an air of anticipation.

Just like the Irish salivate at the thought of a first victory over New Zealand, Sergio Parisse's Italy will work towards the day when they can do to Ireland in the Six Nations what they did to France last year.

Their new coach Jacques Brunel gives fly-half Tobias Botes his international debut and introduces centre Alberto Sgarbi, loose-head Michelle Rizzo and tight-head Lorenzo Cittadini as his four changes from the side that wilted against England.

Ireland have felt a sense of frustration at not being able to get back on track. It was no shock to the system when coach Declan Kidney opted for the same side he had selected for France.

Kidney was never remotely likely to stay with Fergus McFadden when Keith Earls became available again. However, Jonathan Sexton, Donncha O'Callaghan and Earls have options right behind them in Ronan O'Gara, Donnacha Ryan and McFadden. Verdict: Ireland

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, K Earls, G D'Arcy, A Trimble; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (capt), S Ferris, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Italy: A Masi; G Venditi, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, L McLean; T Botes, E Gori; M Rizzo, L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini, Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami, A Zanni, R Barbieri, S Parisse (capt).

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