Sunday, March 3, 2024

Ireland aim to build on France’s sublime victory over Italy

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After a strong performance against France last week, Ireland will be hoping to move closer to completing an historic Six Nations Grand Slam when they host Italy at Lansdowne Road on Sunday.

Andy Farrell’s Ireland side will be heavily favored to win two of two games after humiliating France 38-17 in Marseille last Friday. This is a record victory for an Irish team in France.

But Ireland will be mindful that they cannot afford to let their form slip away against the Italians, who forced an England team with several new caps into their side, losing only 27-24 in Rome.

AFP Sports picked three things that could be key from this match.

Italy is trying to break old bad habits

One of the many challenges facing head coach Gonzalo Quesada is getting the Italian team to put in two decent performances in consecutive weekends.

The loss of first-choice back-row forwards Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone will hurt, but the return of livewire full-back Ange Capozzo from illness should keep the Irish’s momentum going .

Italy came close to Ireland in last year’s game against Roma, ultimately losing 30-24, but buoyed by their performance against England, they hope to beat Ireland in their own backyard in 2022, similar to Wales. I’ll be there.

“Italy are playing with so much passion and emotion and now they’re bringing that precision as well,” said Ireland No8 Jack Connan.

“They’re going to get some big scalps soon. You’ll see that as they play.”

In fact, British and Irish Lions star Connan believes Ireland’s defense may have a tougher day than their poor performance against France.

“It’s definitely a different challenge than France, because they’re probably a little bit more pragmatic and more proactive,” Conan said.

“Italy will play as much as possible, taking advantage of every opportunity.

“We’re going to have an even tougher defensive challenge this weekend than we’ve had in the past, so we’re going to have to work on that from the get-go.”

Injured Ryan to prove a point.

As James Ryan discovered, sports can be a cruel world.

One day, in Johnny Sexton’s absence, you were the undisputed first-choice lock and a regular stand-in for the Ireland captain.

Then you were overlooked for the captaincy role with Sexton’s retirement, replaced by Joe McCarthy in the starting XI. He’s your Leinster teammate, four years younger than you, and he’s enjoying the glory of being named man of the match against France.

Ryan shares the role with Gary Ringrose at Leinster, but in terms of international captaincy, at least Caelan Doris looks to have the edge over him.

When Ryan starts alongside McCarthy on Sunday, he will have a chance to remind head coach Andy Farrell of his qualities – the need to rediscover his old verve and not a lesser-performing version at the Rugby World Cup. There is.

Judging by Farrell’s statements Friday, the blow to his self-esteem appears to have had a positive response.

“James Ryan is chomping at the bit to show his worth and start,” Farrell said.

However, with Tadhg Beirne, who missed the game on a well-rested day, in top form, it will take a herculean effort from Ryan to return to first-choice status.

Farrell strengthens Casey and Crowley partnership

Looking to his long-term future, Farrell has chosen a halfback pairing of Munster team-mate Jack Crowley, who impressed many at fly-half against France, and fellow 24-year-old Craig Casey at scrum-half. selected.

Casey has been named ahead of Ireland and Munster great Conor Murray, who is not even on the bench with first-choice scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park as back-up.

Casey may be small at 5ft 5in (1.65m) but he more than makes up for it by being unintimidating and able to get on the heels of much larger opponents, and was effective against Crowley in Munster. We are building a strong partnership.

Certainly Farrell likes what he sees.

Coach Farrell said: “Craig Casey has been energetic and has been playing well and deserves a starting spot.”


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