Schmidt wants better Irish start against Italy

by AFP

Ireland have decided to do without inspirational fly-half Jonathan Sexton for their key Six Nations international against Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Sexton missed Ireland's tournament-opening 27-22 loss away to Scotland last week with calf trouble and coach Joe Schmidt has resisted the temptation to rush him back for a match where defeat would effectively signal the end of his side's title challenge.

Instead, as was the case at Murrayfield, Paddy Jackson will be the starting outside-half against an Italy team coached by former Ireland fullback Conor O'Shea.

Sexton has not played since Leinster's 24-24 draw at French club Castres in a European Champions Cup tie on January 20.
Paddy Jackson will start for Ireland against Italy. Photo: Getty Images.Ireland, however, hope to have the 31-year-old British and Irish Lions international available by the time they face France in Dublin on February 25.

No 8 Donnacha Ryan and prop Cian Healy were the only changes to Ireland's starting XV announced by Schmidt on Thursday.

Meanwhile Italy captain Sergio Parisse has warned against "surprise plays" and Ireland's intention to "do damage" when they clash in Rome on Saturday.

A week after succumbing 33-7 to Wales, Italy host Joe Schmidt's men hoping a more disciplined performance at the Stadio Olimpico keeps them in contention
throughout the second half.

But facing the 2015 champions less a week after a 27-22 upset to Scotland dented Ireland's victory plans for the tournament, says Parisse, is not ideal.

"They're coming off a defeat they probably haven't digested yet," Parisse told media as he ran the rule over Saturday's opponents on Friday.

Italy reigned victorious against South Africa. Photo: Getty Images"Compared to the other teams in the Six Nations, Ireland are able to adapt their game depending on which team they are playing. They're also adept at scoring tries off the scrum and the line-out,

"We have to be wary of surprises because Ireland will have studied and prepared well. Their coach is astute, they have very strong players, and they'll want to go out and do some damage."

Italian Head Coach O'Shea made 35 appearances as a full-back for Ireland but as he prepares to face his country for the first time as an opponent, the former Harlequins handler has left no stone unturned.

"After last week's disappointment, the coach reiterated to us this morning, in no uncertain terms, how important this game is," added Parisse.

"It's a crucial game for us but it's going to be more complicated than last week, because we can't make errors like we did, especially in the second half."

It will be Parisse's 123rd Italy appearance and his 75th as captain.


Ireland and Italy teams for Six Nations at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome on Saturday 1:25am ADST.


1. Cian Healy

2. Rory Best (c) 

3. Tadhg Furlong

4. Donnacha Ryan

5. Devin Toner

6. CJ Stander 

7. Sean O'Brien

8. Jamie Heaslip

9. Conor Murray 

10. Paddy Jackson 

11. Simon Zebo

12. Robbie Henshaw 

13. Garry Ringrose

14. Keith Earls

15. Rob Kearney 


16. Niall Scannell

17. Jack McGrath

18. John Ryan

19. Ultan Dillane

20. Josh van der Flier

21. Kieran Marmion

22. Ian Keatley

23. Craig Gilroy


1. Andrea Lovotti

2. Leonardo Ghiraldini

3. Lorenzo Cittadini  

4. Marco Fuser

5. Dries Van Schalkwyk

6. Maxime MBanda

7. Simone Favaro

8. Sergio Parisse (c)

9. Edoardo Gori

10. Carlo Canna

11. Giovanbattista Venditti

12 Luke McClean

13. Tommaso Benvenuti

14. Angelo Esposito

15. Edoardo Padovani,


16. Ornel Gega

17. Sami Panico

18. Dario Chistolini

19. George Biagi

20. Abraham Steyn

21. Giorgio Bronzini

22. Tommaso Allan

23. Michele Campagnaro