The 2019 Six Nations will see Ireland bid to retain their crown and aim for a fourth Grand Slam while Italy head coach Conor O’Shea will bid for improvements after a disappointing campaign last time out.
Ireland swept all aside as they dominated the championship in 2018 while Italy recorded only a single point, finishing nine adrift of fifth-placed England to collect their 13th wooden spoon.
When the two sides meet in Rome during the third round on February 24 (kick-off 4.00pm local time) the Azzurri will want to put the disappointment of their 56-19 defeat at The Aviva Stadium last February behind them.
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The hosts ran in eight converted tries to secure a bonus-point win that made it two wins from two at that point in their all-conquering Six Nations campaign.
CAN ITALY PRODUCE SHOCK IN ONE-SIDED RIVALRY?
When Italy host Ireland at the Stadio Olimpico next February, they will be hoping to emulate their only ever Six Nations success over the reigning champions – a remarkable 22-15 victory in Rome in 2013 as Italy finished fourth in the overall standings and which ended a run of 17 straight defeats to Ireland in the competition.
Aside from that, Italy have only won three other Tests against the current world number two side. These came in a run of three consecutive fixtures between 1995 and 1997, two of which came at home with Italy’s only ever victory in Ireland coming in a 37-29 win at Lansdowne Road on January 4 1997.
Many of the games between the two sides have featured large winning margins for Ireland but the closest and one of the most memorable meetings between the two sides came in a World Cup warm-up fixture in 2007.
Ireland, aided by an injury-time try from Ronan O’Gara, secured a 23-20 win in a tense affair.
In recent seasons, Ireland have racked up the scores with CJ Stander and Craig Gilroy both bagging hat-tricks last time the two teams met in Rome.
But this past autumn, Italy matched the Irish in Chicago for the first half before Jordan Larmour’s late salvo saw them pull away.
However, memories of 2013 are still fresh – Gio Venditti’s score and the boot of Luciano Orquera sealing the victory.
History is everywhere you look in The Eternal City as classical ruins sit side-by-side with Baroque fountains and its historic cobbled streets.
Alongside taking in a Six Nations contest, there is possibly too much for people to do and see in a city of sheer spectacle and wonder.
The Colosseum in Rome and the Arch of Constantine are must see while Vatican City is an experience like no other.
The Pantheon is a Roman wonder and Trevi Fountain is a beautiful sight to behold.
Aside from the sights, Rome is a hotbed of fantastic food and drink – whether an authentic pizza, pasta or even one of the many quaint bars dotted around the area is your style.
The historic Stadio Olimpico is Rome’s largest sports stadium, with a 70,634 capacity, and it is most famous for its housing of football, serving as Roma and Lazio’s home ground.
It has hosted four European Cup finals alongside its use as the home of Italian rugby and athletics.
The stadium is located north of Rome at about 4 kilometres north of Vatican City. It is situated within the Foro Italico sports complex.
To get to the stadium by car, you should head to the Rome ringroad (G.R.A.), and then take exit N5 towards Flaminia (on the northern side of the G.R.A.) and then follow the signs to Foro Italico.
There are no metro stations close to the stadium, so tram is your best bet. Tram 2 passes the stadium and can be taken from metro stop Flaminio on line A, which is close to the Villa Borghese gardens and Piazza del Popolo.
Take the tram in the direction of Mancini and get off at stop Mancini.
Alternatively, visitors can get bus 32 just north of Vatican City at metro stop Ottaviano. Take the bus in the direction of Tor di Quinto and get off at stop Stadio Tennis.
Bus 280 is another option and can be caught from the Castel Sant’Angelo or metro Lepanto. Take the bus in the direction of Mancini and get off at stop Stadio Tennis.