Keith Earls
Earls scored twice against Romania but Ireland are expecting a fiercer challenge against Italy.Getty Images

Ireland can book their place in the last eight if they can overcome Italy, who will have designs on adding some respectability to a frankly dire campaign.

Where to watch

Ireland vs Italy kicks off at 4.45pm BST on Saturday 3 October. Live coverage is available on ITV HD and BBC Radio Five Live.

Preview

Ireland may not be the first team to qualify for the last eight of the Rugby World Cup, but – assuming they cruise to victory over Italy – it is unlikely that many other teams will do it in as comprehensive and impressive a fashion. Joe Schmidt's side have recovered from their stuttering warm-up performances to peak at just the right moment.

While the minnows in the rest of the tournament have been able to provide at least some kind of stubborn resistance, the same cannot be said for Canada and Romania when faced with the Irish. The successive Six Nations champions have been clinical and at times destructive as they claimed maximum points from their two pool matches.

Italy are very much rabbits in the headlights. Few positives emerged from the defeat to France and the edgy win over Canada, who for so long threatened to be the benefactors of another upset in this tournament. The truth is even mid-way through their campaign the Azzuri are consigned to playing for third place.

Sergio Parisse
Sergio Parisse returns for Italy but it could be too little, too lateGetty Images

Defeat for Jacques Brunel's side would leave them exposed to being shocked by Romania on the final weekend, exiting the tournament with just a solidarity win. Limp performances so far have already raised calls for a relegation system in the Six Nations, but having to qualify along with many other third-tier nations for the World Cup in Japan should be a fate they first need to avoid. They must finish third to be guaranteed a place in the 2019 event.

Sergio Parisse returns to inject some confidence into the Italian side and he will add at the very least some respectability to the performance. Ireland meanwhile will be looking to claim victory without breaking too much of a sweat, ahead of a top spot shoot-out with France on the final weekend.

Teams

Ireland: 15. Simon Zebo, 14. Tommy Bowe, 13. Keith Earls, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Dave Kearney, 10. Jonathan Sexton, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Jack McGrath, 2. Rory Best 3. Mike Ross 4. Iain Henderson, 5. Paul O'Connell, 6. Peter O'Mahony, 7. Sean O'Brien, 8. Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Nathan White, 19. Devin Toner, 20. Chris Henry, 21. Eoin Reddan, 22. Ian Madigan, 23. Luke Fitzgerald.

Italy: 15. Luke McLean, 14. Leonardo Sarto, 13. Michele Capagnaro, 12. Gonzalo Garcia, 11. Giovanbattista Venditti, 10. Tommaso Allan, 9. Edoardo Gori; 1. Matias Aguero, 2. Andrea Manici, 3. Lorenzo Cittadini, 4. Ouintin Geldenhuys, 5. Josh Furno, 6. Francesco Minto, 7. Simone Favaro, 8. Sergio Parisse

Replacements: 16. Davide Giazzon, 17. Michele Rizzo, 18. Dario Chistolini, 19. Alessandro Zanni, 20. Mauro Bergamasco, 21. Guglielmo Palazzani, 22. Carlo Canna, 23. Tommaso Benvenuti.

What the coaches say

Joe Schmidt: "[Josh Payne] is progressing really well. It was scanned just as a precaution to make sure there was nothing structural awry and he's got bruising but that's it.

"It's just inflammation and discomfort that is getting better by the day. He's able to walk around freely on it now and jog around. It's just a frustration that he hasn't been able to prepare himself.

"He would probably not be fit by Sunday anyway so there's no point in trying to push him through too quickly. We'd be quietly confident [that he will be fit for France] at the moment. We'd be expecting that he will at least be able to train individually on Tuesday and with the team on Wednesday."

Jacques Brunel
Brunel fears the worst ahead of the meeting with Ireland.Getty Images

Jacques Brunel: "If the team plays the way it did [against Canada] we will go 30 points under against Ireland. If we don't have precision it will not be a contest – this is the truth. But we have the ability to play differently – it's not like we are not able to play [well]. We didn't deliver in the first or second games so let's see what happens next week.

"If somebody is more experienced on the pitch they can have a bigger influence. But the players we had on the pitch have the ability to have this quality. Gori has to be influential, Allan must be influential, they have a future in this team but they are in difficulty at the moment."

Other fixtures

2:30pm: Argentina vs Tonga (Leicester City Stadium)