Six Nations 2023: Italy vs Ireland match preview, kick-off time, team news & key stats

After triumphing in one of the greatest matches in this tournament, Ireland’s quest for the fourth Grand Slam in their history marches on to Rome.

Their win against France in round two demonstrated the excellence that has yielded 19 wins in 21 Tests and a place at the top of the world rankings.

Ireland next faces an Italian side they have beaten in all but one of their 23 Six Nations meetings.

Italy is trying to end a championship-record run of 23 home losses.

They lost 31-14 to England at Twickenham in their last match but came close to beating champions France at home in their opening game of this year’s tournament.

Team news

Title favorites Ireland are without captain Johnny Sexton, who has been ruled out because of a leg injury sustained against France two weeks ago.

With Sexton sidelined, fly-half Ross Byrne makes his first Six Nations start in one of six changes made by head coach Andy Farrell.

Scrum-half Craig Casey also makes his first start in this tournament in place of Conor Murray.

With Garry Ringrose ruled out by injury on Friday, Stuart McCloskey comes back into the starting team having been demoted to the bench in the original selection.

He starts at outside center and Bundee Aki moves to inside center, with Jimmy O’Brien named on the bench.

Iain Henderson comes in at lock for Tadhg Beirne, who has been ruled out of the championship by injury, and Ronan Kelleher starts at hooker with Rob Herring sidelined by a concussion. Back row Jack Conan also replaces Peter O’Mahony.

Second-row James Ryan skippers the side in Sexton’s absence.

Italy makes three changes from their defeat at Twickenham, with Paolo Garbisi making his first appearance of the tournament at fly-half after recovering from injury.

Pierre Bruno starts on the wing, meaning Tommaso Menoncello moves to the inside center and Luca Morisi misses out.

Tight-head prop Simone Ferrari is preferred to Marco Riccioni, while captain Michele Lamaro is fit enough to start after he was forced off against England with a leg injury.

Commentator’s notes

Sara Orchard: We’ve spent the opening round of the Six Nations watching Paulo Garbisi giving his opinion as a pitch-side TV pundit – but his words this week will come from the Italy number 10 jersey.

Fit-again, the 22-year-old will be the focus of Italy’s fortunes. Can he can get the side playing on the front foot and deploying Kieran Crowley’s much-discussed ‘Plan B’ if required?

Ireland hasn’t played a note wrong yet in this campaign; they’re clear favorites and their trip to Rome will be about showing their range.

It’s a timely opportunity for Ross Byrne and Craig Casey to display their wares as a half-back pairing. Andy Farrell hopes to see that any injured Irish player has more than adequate cover, even the seemingly irreplaceable Johnny Sexton.

View from both camps

Italy head coach Kieran Crowley: “Every game has a different story.

“We will face Ireland aware of what we did against France and England with the aim of improving in some areas that will make us more competitive. It will be a tough game against the number one team in the world and we can’t wait to face them.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell on selecting Byrne and Casey: “They have earned the right to start. Preparation has been great and they seem ready for it.

“People wouldn’t have been selected if they weren’t in the right place.

“So, we’re not just turning things around for the sake of it, we are turning things around because we think it’s a strong side for us going forward, for this game and for the future as well.”


Italy: 15-Capuozzo; 14-Padovani, 13-Brex, 12-Menoncello, 11-Bruno; 10-Garbisi, 9-Varney; 1-Fischetti, 2-Nicotera, 3-Ferrari, 4-Cannone, 5-Ruzza, 6-Negri, 7-Lamaro (capt), 8-Cannone

Replacements: 16-Bigi, 17-Zani, 18-Riccioni, 19-Iachizzi, 20-Pettinelli, 21-Fusco, 22-Morisi, 23-Allan

Ireland: 15-Keenan; 14-Hansen, 13-Aki, 12-McCloskey, 11-Lowe; 10-Byrne, 9-Casey; 1-Porter, 2-Kelleher, 3-Bealham, 4-Henderson, 5-Ryan, 6-Van der Flier, 7-Doris, 8-Conan

Replacements: 16-Sheehan, 17-Kilcoyne, 18-O’Toole, 19-Baird, 20-O’Mahony, 21-Murray, 22-Crowley, 23-O’Brien

Match facts


  • Ireland has won 22 of their 23 Six Nations matches against Italy, including the last nine in a row.
  • Italy’s 22-15 triumph in Rome in 2013 is their only win in this Six Nations fixture.


  • Italy has lost all 23 home games in the Six Nations since beating Ireland in Rome in 2013. It’s the longest losing run at home by any team in the Five or Six Nations.
  • Kieran Crowley has recorded a 38% win rate with Italy. Since 2000, only Pierre Berbizier has recorded a better rate as Italy’s head coach, with 42% between 2005-07.


  • Ireland has won 19 of their last 21 Test matches (L2), including their last seven in a row. They have averaged 4.4 tries per game during this period.
  • Their only defeats during this run came away to France and New Zealand, both in 2022.

Match officials

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

Touch judges: Wayne Barnes (England) & Craig Evans (Wales)

TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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