Ireland and Italy name teams for Dublin clash

by AAP

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made four changes to his pack to face Italy, bringing in a mix of youth and experience that includes handing No.8 Jack Conan a Six Nations debut.

The 25-year-old Conan, who has scored four tries in five Tests for his country so far, allows CJ Stander a break at the back of the scrum where he will be joined by Dan Leavy, who replaces his injured Leinster teammate Josh van der Flier.

Jack McGrath swaps places with Cian Healy at loosehead prop while Devin Toner will collect his 55th cap as he returns in place of James Ryan following the 21-year-old's own impressive championship debut in last weekend's last-gasp win in France.

Five-eighth Johnny Sexton, whose long-range drop goal secured a winning start in Paris, leads an unchanged back line that will likely feature the uncapped Jordan Larmour at some point after the 20-year-old Leinster flyer was named among the replacements.

"Some of it is mileage," Schmidt told a news conference. "CJ Stander I think had 42 cleanouts and 23 carries in Paris, which while not attritional for CJ - he's in great shape - it's really probably rewarding some performance from Jack Conan in recent times as well."

"It's also that opportunity to keep a freshness. These Six Nations games do become, if nothing else, mentally attritional. By the time we came back from Paris on Sunday evening, we had some fairly sore, tired bodies."

Italy coach Conor O'Shea admits he had to stop himself from picking Ian McKinley to face Ireland purely to create a "romantic story".

Ian McKinley has had a remarkable rugby journey. Photo: Getty ImagesDublin-born five-eighth McKinley was forced to retire in 2011 after being blinded in one eye, only to relaunch his career in Italy three years later thanks to the aid of specially-designed protective goggles.

The former Leinster playmaker's situation even led World Rugby to ratify the use of the goggles for Test rugby, with the 28-year-old since progressing to represent Italy by way of residency.

Former Ireland fullback O'Shea conceded he would have loved to throw in McKinley to face his Irish compatriots in Saturday's Six Nations clash in Dublin but felt compelled to keep faith with Tommaso Allan and Carlo Canna.

"He was disappointed because he wants to play, that's the bottom line," O'Shea said.

"I knew it would mean a lot to him, so I said as much.

"But Ian's a rugby player, he's not a romantic story. Ian wants to be picked because he is the No.1 rugby player and has the right to be in this team at the time, not because he's a story.

"Sport is full of romance but the hard-nosed side of it is that, at the moment, Tommy Allan had the jersey last weekend and was outstanding, and Carlo Canna is one of the top points-scorers in Pro14 rugby and an exciting talent who brings a different skill set.

"I'd love to have picked Ian, I wanted to pick him in so many ways but how could you say to the other players, 'you're not picked because I want to pick Ian on romance'. Ian is a rugby player and he's a bloody good rugby player."

Italy lost out 46-15 to England in Rome last weekend in their opening Six Nations clash.

Ireland hosts Italy at Aviva Stadium on Saturday February 10, kicking off at 2:15pm local, Sunday 3:15am AEDT.


Ireland to face Italy

1. Jack McGrath

2. Rory Best

3. Tadhg Furlong

4. Iain Henderson

5. Devin Toner

6. Peter O’Mahony

7. Dan Leavy

8. Jack Conan

9. Conor Murray

10. Johnny Sexton

11. Jacob Stockdale

12. Bundee Aki

13. Robbie Henshaw

14. Keith Earls

15. Rob Kearney


16. Sean Cronin

17. Cian Healy

18. Andrew Porter

19. Quinn Roux

20. CJ Stander

21. Kieran Marmion

22. Joey Carbery

23. Jordan Larmour

Italy to face Ireland

1. Sergio Parisse

2. Abrahan Steyn

3. 3. Sebastian Negri

4. Dean Budd

5. Alessandro Zanni

6. Simone Ferrari

7. Luca Bigi

8. Nicola Quaglio

9. Marcello Violi

10. Tommaso Allan

11. Mattia Bellini

12. Tommaso Castello

13. Tommaso Boni

14. Tommaso Benvenuti

15. Matteo Minozzi


16. Leonardo Ghiraldini

17. Andrea Lovotti

18. Tiziano Pasquali

19. Federico Buzza

20. Maxime Mata Mbanda

21. Edoardo Gori

22. Carlo Canna

23. Jayden Hayward