Ireland struggled to break down England last time out, suffering their second defeat in three. Getty

Ireland's hopes of a third consecutive Six Nations championship are dead and buried, but they can still give their fans something to cheer about when Italy come to town on Saturday 11 March.

Where to watch

Ireland vs Italy is available to watch live on ITV, with kick off scheduled for 1.30pm (GMT).


Ireland are still looking for their first win in this edition of the Six Nations after back-to-back defeats to England and France and an opening weekend draw with Wales, leaving them slumped second bottom in what is quickly turning into a wretched campaign.

Joe Schmidt's side have laboured through their tournament so far, having already surrendered their title, but it could all have been so different. Fine margins have been the source of their downfall, like that draw against Wales and that bruising one-point defeat at the Stade de France. Perhaps inevitably, their coach has had to contend with suggestions that a more attack-minded approach would have seen those results defeats and draws transformed into wins.

Schmidt defended himself by pointing out a conservative approach would not have seen him hand Test debuts to Stuart McCloskey and Josh van der Flier at Twickenham last time out. The former struck a promising partnership at centre alongside Robbie Henshaw in that defeat to England, but he drops out of the squad completely for Saturday's clash at the Aviva Stadium.

Jared Payne returns at centre despite calls for him to be deployed at full-back and let the Ulster-man remain in his spot, one of two changes made ahead of Saturday. Simon Zebo comes back into the team to replace full-back Rob Kearney, who is struggling with a hamstring. Otherwise, Schmidt has opted against naming an experimental side.

Italy targeting their first win in Dublin since 1997. Getty

After their home thrashing at the hands of Scotland last time out, Italy seem destined for another wooden spoon unless they can register their first win Dublin in 19 years. Edoardo Padovani has been handed his Test debut by head coach Jacques Brunel, one of four changes that also see Guglielmo Palazzani in for Edoardo Gori at scrum-half with Davide Giazzon and George Biagi coming in at hooker and lock respectively.


Ireland: 15. Simon Zebo, 14. Andrew Trimble, 13. Jared Payne, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Keith Earls, 10. Jonathan Sexton, 9. Conor Murray, 1. Jack McGrath, 2. Rory Best, 3. Mike Ross, 4. Donnacha Ryan, 5. Devin Toner, 6. CJ Stander, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Nathan White, 19. Ultan Dilane, 20. Rhys Ruddock, 21. Kieran Marrmion, 22. Ian Madigan, 23. Fergus McFadden.

Italy: 15. David Odiete, 14. Leonardo Sarto, 13. Michele Campagnaro, 12. Gonzalo Garcia, 11. Mattia Bellini, 10. Edoardo Padovani, 9. Guglielmo Palazzani, 1. Andrea Lovotti, 2. Davide Giazzon, 3. Lorenzo Cittadini, 4. George Biagi, 5. Marco Fuser, 6. Francesco Minto, 7. Alessandro Zanni, 8. Sergio Parisse

Replacements: 16. Oliviero Fabiani, 17. Matteo Zanusso, 18. Dario Chistolini, 19. Quintin Geldenhuys, 20. Braam Steyn, 21. Alberto Lucchese, 22. Kelly Haimona, 23. Luke McLean

What the coaches say

Joe Schmidt: "I know we have to win this weekend. And I'm sure players sense it as well but it hasn't been a topic of conversation because we can't really control all the variables and the outcome.

"So what we've tried to say is, 'right, here are some variables that we have to be really good at and we need to be prepared for," he added, before citing the threat posed by Palazzani sniping around the fringes.

"We have to make sure our fringe defence is locked up there," said Schmidt, who also pointed to the speed and power of Campagnaro, "one of the key tackle breakers for them".

Jacques Brunel: "Edoardo Padovani has been with us since the beginning of the Six Nations, he is a young, interesting fly-half and we want to test him from the start after seeing him off the bench," said Brunel.

"Padovani and Palazzani play together with Zebre, they have built up habits and a partnership through playing together.

"This will be a complicated match, Ireland like us are still looking for their first victory in the Six Nations and also have to deal with numerous absences, again like us," said Brunel.

"Biagi did well against France and England so deserves to start, while Geldenhuys will offer great experience coming on in the second half from the bench."