Ireland to tackle Italy in Dublin
February 23, 2012
Declan Kidney's Ireland will resume their Six Nations campaign following a longer lay-off than expected © Getty Images
Ireland's stop-start Six Nations campaign will resume with the visit of Italy on Saturday.
Declan Kidney's side saw their game with France cancelled just before the scheduled kick off in Paris a couple of weeks ago so they enter this clash a full three weeks after their narrow defeat to Wales on the opening weekend. The frustration of that postponement - felt by the squad and several thousand supporters - will be compounded by the fact that they now face four games in four weeks.
Italy's most recent Six Nations date with England only just survived the deep freeze that engulfed much of Europe earlier this month. Jacques Brunel's side threatened to cause a major upset in a snow-covered Rome only for England to conjure a great escape in the first Championship clash stage at the Stadio Olimpico. But for all their industry they still left empty-handed and find themselves on course for a Wooden Spoon decider with Scotland unless they can make history in Dublin.
Ireland - Player to Watch: Winger Tommy Bowe has scored two tries in four previous appearances against Italy and will fancy his chances of more this weekend.
Ireland - Team News: Ireland have stuck with the same side that was due to take to the field against France. Jonathan Sexton has made a full recovery from the thigh muscle injury sustained before the postponed match against France and starts at fly-half. Keith Earls is drafted into midfield in the only change to the team edged out by Wales in their opener.
Italy - Player to Watch: Fly-half Tobias Botes has been handed the play-making duties despite a torrid time against England - can he turn things around?
Italy - Team News: Italy make four changes to the side narrowly beaten by England with centre Alberto Sgarbi, props Michele Rizzo and Lorenzo Cittadini and Botes. Fly-half Kris Burton drops to the bench as does centre Gonzalo Canale and prop Andrea Lo Cicero. Prop Martin Castrogiovanni misses out with a rib injury suffered against England.
Key Battle: Both sides will field a new-look midfield partnership with Ireland's Keith Earls and Gordon D'Arcy tacking on Italy's Tommaso Benvenuti and Alberto Sgarbi - who will boss proceedings at the Aviva Stadium?
Trivia: Ireland however have lost three of their last four home games in the competition, despite scoring at least two tries in each.
Stats: Italy have not finished within 10 points in any of their last 10 away games in the Six Nations, the last game was a 16-11 defeat to Ireland in 2008.
"We're just going full throttle for this one."
"We're giving points away too easily and if we can eliminate that and be more effective in getting points with the boot then we will have the ability to get results."
Prediction: Expect Ireland to take their frustration out on an Italy side that will once again struggle to deliver quality back-to-back performances.
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