RBS Six Nations: Ireland v Italy match preview
Last Updated: 08/03/14 7:22am
Ireland will be looking to bounce back to winning ways when they host Italy in a top-versus-bottom Six Nations clash in Dublin on Saturday.
Joe Schmidt's side lost their unbeaten record in this season's competition with a narrow 13-10 defeat to England at Twickenham.
But the hosts will take confidence from previously posting two wins at home - over Scotland and Wales - and face a side who have yet to pick up a point in this season's championship.
The rock-bottom visitors go into the game on the back of a last-gasp 20-21 defeat to Scotland, which followed losses to Wales and France.
As well as current form, history is also against the Azzurri, who have not beaten Ireland in Dublin since a 37-29 victory in January 1997.
If the hosts do manage to win, a mouth-watering potential title-decider is looming on March 15 with France - who will also be targeting victory against Scotland on Saturday.
The only change to the Irish side which lost at Twickenham last time sees Ulster's Iain Henderson replace Peter O'Mahony at blindside flanker.
Munster captain O'Mahony has a hamstring problem and Schmidt has decided not to risk him with the France clash on the horizon.
Racing Metro fly-half Jonny Sexton has been passed fit to face the Azzurri, having recovered sufficiently from an injured thumb suffered in the defeat to England.
Former captain Brian O'Driscoll will set a new world-record for Test appearances, taking his tally to 140 with his eight Lions bows included.
Seven of Ireland's eight replacements hail from Leinster, the province Schmidt coached before stepping up to Ireland duty last summer.
For the visitors, Marco Bortolami will lead the side in the absence of regular captain Sergio Parisse.
Coach Jacques Brunel has opted to rest the skipper, who has a thigh problem, and ensure his availability for their final Six Nations encounter of the year against England in Rome later this month.
Benetton Treviso's Robert Barbieri will take Parisse's place at number eight.
Lock Bortolami was benched for the last-gasp defeat by Scotland last month but, along with Paul Derbyshire and Luciano Orquera, is handed a recall by Brunel.
Derbyshire replaces flanker Alessandro Zanni, who injured his knee in the defeat to the Scots, and there is also a recall at scrum-half for Tito Tebaldi, who has been out of favour since the summer of 2012.
Prop Michele Rizzo is included among the replacements after serving a three-week suspension for head-butting an opponent and there are also places on the bench for Treviso flanker Manoa Vosawai and London Wasps centre Andrea Masi.
Ireland: 15 R Kearney, 14 Trimble, 13 O'Driscoll, 12 D'Arcy, 11 D Kearney, 10 Sexton, 9 Murray; 1 Healy, 2 Best, 3 Ross, 4 Toner, 5 O'Connell (c), 6 Henderson, 7 Henry, 8 Heaslip.
Replacements: 16 Cronin, 17 McGrath, 18 Moore, 19 Ruddock, 20 J Murphy, 21 Reddan, 22 Jackson, 23 McFadden.
Italy: 15 McLean, 14 Esposito, 13 Campagnaro, 12 Garcia, 11 Sarto, 10 Orquera, 9 Tebaldi; 1 De Marchi, 2 Ghiraldini, 3 Castrogiovanni, 4 Geldenhuys, 5 Bortolami (c), 6 Furno, 7 Derbyshire, 8 Barbieri.
Replacements: 16 Giazzon, 17 Rizzo, 18 Cittadini, 19 Pavanello, 20 Vosawai, 21 Gori, 22 Allan, 23 Masi.
Six Nations 2014: Ireland v Italy
Joe Schmidt praised Brian O'Driscoll, who produced another excellent performance in his final international in Dublin.
Italy head coach Jacques Brunel has tipped Ireland to win the Six Nations championship in Paris next weekend.
A teary-eyed Brian O'Driscoll handed Ireland a perfect farewell present with a crushing 46-7 Six Nations win over Italy.
- O'Driscoll's perfect send-off
- Bortolami out to ruin party
- Ireland squad not distracted
- Bortolami to skipper Italy
- Sexton fit to face Italy
- Thursday test for Sexton
- Italy recall fit-again Masi
- O'Driscoll backing Henshaw
- BOD hopes Jonny comes home
- Zebo returns for Ireland
- O'Mahony: We will be selfish
- Sexton's Six Nations doubt
- Ireland optimistic over Sexton
- O'Mahony faces fitness race