Match Preview


Doris Lamaro
Grand Slam champions Ireland welcome Italy to Dublin for their first home game of the 2024 Guinness Men’s Six Nations after a dream start away in France.

Andy Farrell’s side laid down a marker with a record 38-17 over Les Bleus, running in five tries in Marseille to cement their status as favourites to retain their title.

They now return to Dublin, where they are unbeaten since 2021, playing host to an Italy side that fell to a narrow defeat to England in Rome on the opening weekend.

Gli Azzurri led at half-time against England but eventually fell short in a 27-24 loss, the closest they have come to beating the English – the only team who they are yet to conquer in the Championship.

Gonzalo Quesada’s men face a daunting encounter on Sunday however, looking to become the first side since France three years ago to come away from the Aviva Stadium with a victory.

Where to watch

Viewers in Ireland can watch the match on Virgin Media One, with coverage beginning at 2pm. Fans in the UK can watch on ITV 1 and ITV X. In Italy, the game will be shown on Tv8 and Sky Sport Uno and Now.

Team News

Ireland have made six changes from the side that triumphed at the Velodrome, as well as changing their skipper for the reception of Italy.

Caelan Doris moves to the openside and will lead Ireland for the first time in the absence of Peter O’Mahony. He will be joined by two replacements from last week in the back row as Ryan Baird gets the nod at blindside flanker with Jack Conan at No.8.

Elsewhere in the pack, James Ryan gets the start in the second row in place of Tadhg Beirne, with Finlay Bealham the other change at tighthead with Tadhg Furlong not involved.

There are two changes in the backline as Craig Casey comes in at scrum-half, Jamison Gibson-Park dropping to the bench, and Stuart McCloskey replacing Bundee Aki at inside centre.

On the bench, Jeremy Loughman and Tom O’Toole come in as prop cover, with Iain Henderson, Harry Byrne and Jordan Larmour also included for the first time this Championship.

Italy have been forced into two changes up front through injury, with Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone both injured against England.

That means that skipper Michele Lamaro is shifting to No.8 with Manuel Zuliani and Alessandro Izekor either side of him.

Meanwhile, there are two further changes to the backline, with fit-again Ange Capuozzo in at full-back for Tommaso Allan, while Stephen Varney takes over from Alessandro Garbisi at scrum-half.

Reverting to a 5-3 bench split, Quesada could hand Ross Vintcent his debut after the Exeter back-rower was included among the replacements.

What they said

New Ireland captain Caelan Doris: “Andy told me on Tuesday and I’m delighted to be in this position for the week. There are lots of nerves but lots of excitement and it’s helped by having such a good group around me and such good leaders. It’s been made easy by them.”

Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada: “In Dublin, our focus will be on our performance and trying to take another step in our growth against one of the strongest teams in the world. We will be missing two key elements in the forwards from the last game but we have a young group looking to break through.

“We expect a tough game and it will be crucial that we stay lucid throughout the game.”

Key battle – Midfield

The excitement in Italy over the potential of Tommaso Menoncello has been palpable since he scored a try on debut in Paris as a teenager. Still only 21, Menoncello demonstrated all of that talent against England, and his partnership with the underrated Juan Ignacio Brex is one of the strengths of this Italian side.

They will need to be at their best in Dublin. Stuart McCloskey has the big task of replacing Bundee Aki, but Ireland’s midfield attack caused France huge problems in Marseille, and McCloskey will provide a similar running threat to Aki. He will combine with Robbie Henshaw and as Ireland look to extend their winning streak at home, the duo could have a big role to play.

Stat attack

  • Ireland have won 23 of their previous 24 Guinness Men’s Six Nations matches against Italy (L1), including each of their last 10 and have won all 12 of their previous encounters in Dublin.

  • Ireland have won each of their last 16 Test matches on home soil, their longest ever such run in men’s Test rugby, with Ireland scoring four tries or more in 12 of those 16 matches.

  • Ireland have won each of their last nine games in the Guinness Men’s Six Nations, their longest-ever such run in the Five of Six Nations; in fact only England (W11, 2015-17) have ever reached double figures for consecutive victories in the Championship since Italy joined in 2000.

  • Ireland and Italy made six line breaks in the opening round of this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations, the joint-most of any sides in Round 1 (also Wales) – Italy also had the highest tackle evasion rate of any team last time out (22%).

  • Italy (2.0) conceded fewer points per defensive 22 entry than any other side in the opening round of this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations, while Ireland scored more points per attacking 22 entry than any other team last weekend (4.2).

Fantasy watch

With Ireland making a number of changes this week, there is plenty of value to be had among Andy Farrell’s charges, not least at scrum-half where Craig Casey is available at just 10.8 stars, while Calvin Nash was one of Ireland’s highest scorers in Marseille and is still only 11.5 stars. And of course, Joe McCarthy might not match his exploits in France, but still looks like very good value at 12.1.

For Italy, the aforementioned Tommaso Menoncello was second only to Monty Ioane in fantasy points last week, and is still just 12.1 stars. Manuel Zuliani has been outstanding for Benetton this season and could be a handy investment now that he is starting.


Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey; 1 Andrew Porter, 2 Dan Sheehan, 3 Finlay Bealham, 4 Joe McCarthy, 5 James Ryan, 6 Ryan Baird, 7 Caelan Doris (c), 8 Jack Conan

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jordan Larmour

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 1 Danilo Fischetti, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 5 Federico Ruzza, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 8 Michele Lamaro (c)

Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Andrea Zambonin, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori