Ireland v Italy Six Nations 13:30 Sat
Ireland will hope they suffer no ill-effects from the cancellation of their 6 Nations encounter against France two weeks ago when they play hosts to Italy as heavy odds on favourites with Bet365 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Having lost their opening game against Wales 21-23 in what will likely be remembered as one of the most gripping 6 Nations encounters of all time, Declan Kidney’s side would have been looking to respond immediately in their next game against France.
However the freezing conditions in Paris combined with the lack of under soil at the Stade de France to cause the game to be postponed just ten minutes before the scheduled kick-off, much to the despair of the on-looking crowd of 80,000.
Now they go into their game against Italy hoping not to come close to slipping up against the minnows of the tournament in similar manner to that of last year’s game in Rome.
Ronan O’Gara’s last-gasp drop goal salvaged a scrappy 13-11 win for Ireland after they had appeared destined to succumb to their first ever 6 Nations defeat against the Azzurri, who would go on to secure a historic victory over France later in the tournament.
Since that high point in their 6 Nations history, Italy have stagnated somewhat and have so far reverted to type after failing to spring any surprises at the World Cup.
An opening day defeat against France was followed by another loss against England that would have hurt new head coach Jacques Brunel, who would have seen the game as the perfect chance to secure their first ever win against the Red Rose.
Italy make four changes for the game in Dublin, with Alberto Sgarbi, Michele Rizzo, Lorenzo Cittadini and fly-half Tobias Botes all stepping into the side, while Martin Castrogiovanni is a notable absentee having limped off against England.
Ireland have yet to announce their team for the game but will be without Brian O’Driscoll, who continues his injury-enforced absence from the side.