Andy Farrell’s side head into round three of the Six Nations top-of-the-table after two opening wins
By James Roulston Mooney
Ireland will want to maintain their strong start to the 2023 Six Nations when they face off against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico this afternoon.
The men in green enter their first international weekend top of the tournament table after victories over Wales and France.
Number nine Craig Casey, who debuted for Ireland against Italy in the same venue and competition in 2021, is the only Munster name in the starting XV.
Centurion Conor Murray, half-centurion Dave Kilcoyne and Munster captain Peter O’Mahony start the match on the bench with 23-year-old Jack Crowley.
The number one team in the world will be without 38-year-old talisman Johnny Sexton, with Leinster teammate Ross Byrne wearing the number 10 shirt in his place.
Sexton’s exclusion from the squad due to injury has opened the door for twice-capped Crowley to return to the bench for Ireland.
Lock James Ryan takes the captain’s armband in Sexton’s absence.
Thrice-capped Jimmy O’Brien is in at 23 after Leinster’s Garry Ringrose was ruled out of the game, forcing the outside centre to wait for at least one more round to join Dave Kilcoyne beyond the 50-cap threshold.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Bundee Aki, Stuart McCloskey, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Craig Casey; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Finlay Bealham; Iain Henderson, James Ryan (C); Caelan Doris, Josh Van Der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O’Toole, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Jimmy O’Brien.
Italy: Ange Capuozzo; Edoardo Padovani, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Pierre Bruno; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari; Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza; Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro (C), Lorenzo Cannone.
Replacements: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Marco Riccioni, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Alessandro Fusco, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Allan.
Kick-off from Stadio Olimpico at 2.15pm.