Ireland are so far living up to their ranking as the world’s best Test side, having ended France’s 14-match winning run as the defending champions were beaten 32-19 in a match for the ages in Dublin. That’s some statement ahead of the Rugby World Cup across the Channel later this year.
Having also dismantled Wales, Andy Farrell’s men head to Italy today bursting with confidence and hugely optimistic about a first Six Nations triumph and Slam since 2018 as they finally look to end their World Cup curse in France in the autumn.
Italy gave the French all they could handle in a first-round performance that suggested they were ready to build on a memorable 2022 in which they claimed notable victories over the likes of Wales and Australia, though their performance against England a fortnight ago was a real step back.
Though they had a second-half flurry, Kieran Crowley’s Azzurri were dominated up front and often defensively all over the place as they deservedly fell 31-14 at Twickenham in the first win of the Steve Borthwick era.
Italy vs Ireland date, kick-off time and venue
Italy vs Ireland gets round three of the 2023 Six Nations underway after the first fallow week, with troubled Wales hosting rivals England in Cardiff afterward and unbeaten Scotland then paying a visit to France on Sunday.
The match is set for a 2:15pm GMT kick-off time today, Saturday, February 25, at the famous Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
How to watch Italy vs Ireland
TV channel: In the UK, Italy vs Ireland is being broadcast live and free-to-air on ITV1, with coverage beginning at 1:25pm.
Live stream: Fans can also follow the action live online via the ITVX app and ITV website.
Live blog: You can follow the match on Saturday via Standard Sport’s dedicated LIVE blog.
Italy vs Ireland team news
Italy are boosted by the return of first-choice fly-half Paolo Garbisi from injury, with Harlequins’ Tommaso Allan dropping to the bench.
Tommaso Menoncello moves from the wing to midfield as Pierre Bruno returns out wide and Luca Morisi is named as a replacement.
Simone Ferrari also replaces Saracens tighthead Marco Riccioni in the only change to the Azzurri pack.
Farrell had made six changes to the Ireland team that beat France in such epic fashion, with captain Johnny Sexton out with a leg injury and second row James Ryan handed the captain’s armband as Ross Byrne starts at fly-half.
Craig Casey is rewarded for a bright cameo against Les Bleus as he lines up alongside Byrne in a new-look half-back pairing, with Munster team-mate Conor Murray on the bench.
Bundee Aki was initially preferred to Stuart McCloskey in the centres, though the latter now starts with Garry Ringrose withdrawn due to injury and Jimmy O’Brien on the bench. In the pack, Iain Henderson replaces the injured Tadhg Beirne at lock.
Ronan Kelleher starts at hooker with Dan Sheehan fit enough for the bench after injury and Rob Herring out, and Jack Conan comes in at No8 with Peter O’Mahony on the bench and the superb Caelan Doris moving to the blinside flank.
Munster’s Jack Crowley is in line to make his Six Nations debut from the bench as Byrne’s understudy in the absence of Sexton. The likes of Tadhg Furlong, Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw and Cian Healy are all still sidelined.
Italy vs Ireland lineups
Italy XV: Capuozzo; Padovani, Brex, Menoncello, Bruno; Garbisi, Varney; Fischetti, Nicotera, Ferrari, N Cannone, Ruzza, Negri, Lamaro (c), L Cannone.
Replacements: Bigi, Zani, Riccioni, Iachizzi, Pettinelli, Fusco, Morisi, Allan.
Ireland XV: Keenan; Hansen, McCloskey, Aki, Lowe; R Byrne, Casey; Porter, Kelleher, Bealham; Henderson, Ryan (c); Doris, Van der Flier, Conan.
Replacements: D Sheehan, Kilcoyne, O'Toole, Baird, O'Mahony, Murray, Crowley, O’Brien.
Italy vs Ireland head to head (h2h) history and results
Italy have only ever beaten Ireland once in the Six Nations - a 22-15 upset in Rome in 2013.
The Irish have won all 12 meetings across all competitions since then, often hitting the 50-point mark in a series of punishing victories.
They pummelled Italy 57-6 at the Aviva Stadium 12 months ago, with the visitors finishing a rather farcical game with only 12 players.
Italy wins: 4
Ireland wins: 30
Italy vs Ireland prediction
Ireland are the best team in the world by some distance at the moment, with that exhilarating win over France - in which they left several tries on the field - further underlining their significant progress under Farrell ahead of the World Cup, where they have never gone beyond the quarter-finals.
A Grand Slam looks more and more likely for the Men in Green with Scotland and England to come, while it is very difficult indeed to see them slipping up remotely in Rome despite missing the likes of the influential Sexton.
Italy were wretched for spells against England and will have to rediscover the sort of fearless display that saw them almost beat France in round one in order just to keep things respectable on Saturday.
A comfortable away win beckons, with the Azzurri likely targeting the visit of crisis-stricken Wales on March 11 as their best chance for victory this year.
Ireland to win by 25 points.
Italy vs Ireland odds
Italy to win: 12/1
Ireland to win: 1/20
Odds via Betfair (subject to change).