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25th Feb 2023

Ireland vs Italy: All the big talking points, moments and player ratings

Jason Hennessy


Andy Farrell’s side are unbeaten so far in this year’s Championship with bonus-point wins over Wales and France in the opening rounds, and we have all the big plays, moments and Ireland player ratings covered in our live feed below.

Ireland made six changes in total to the side that defeated France, including a brand new halfback pairing. Iain Henderson replaced the injured Tadhg Beirne, with Rónan Kelleher coming in for his first start at hooker having come off the bench early against Les Blues after Rob Herring was forced off.

Ross Byrne started at outhalf, with Jack Crowley on the bench and captain Johnny Sexton rested. Craig Casey started at nine, with Munster teammate Conor Murray dropped to the replacements bench. Also included in the Ireland XV were Bundee Aki, and Jack Conan, respectively in for Stuart McCloskey and Peter O’Mahony.

James Lowe dives in for Ireland’s second try during their Six Nations game against France at the Aviva Stadium on February 11, 2023 in Dublin.(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Strange version of Ireland’s Call

Before a ball was kicked, the Italian version of Ireland’s Call had many people asking what was going on:


Hugo Keenan – 8

Danced and skated through the Italian defence for a wonderful try. Made 82 metres off nine carries. Missed three tackles, and stuck three, in defence.

Mack Hansen – 8
Penalised for obstruction during a kick-chase. Stayed wide and was rewarded with a try in the corner. Try-scoring instinct was there when he trailed Murray and was rewarded with an offload to dash over for a second.

Bundee Aki – 7

Lovely offload in the build-up to Ryan’s try. Fell off a couple of tackles before Italy’s first try. In attack, scorched on one carry and see up Keenan’s try. His no-look offload was gobbled up for an Italian intercept try. Fumbled the ball, after being tackled, and another Irish try was ruled out. Won his side two turnovers. Conceded a late penalty.

Stuart McCloskey – 7

Early issues in defence – missing one tackle and being driven back in contact – but grew into the game. Ireland’s top tackler in the first half, with 12. Penalised for a high tackle on a flying Ange Capuozzo.

James Lowe – 7

Denied the hero try when he went one-handed, but made up for it by setting up Ryan for the first score. Set up Aki for his try and made a 60-metre clearing kick, to touch, from a narrow angle. Caught out after he drifted up, before the Varney try. Like Aki, great in attack but slips in defence.

Ross Byrne – 7

His big opportunity to show he can lead an attack and show up strong in defence. Looked nifty in some swift Ireland attacks. Aki’s offload to him was read well, for the intercept. Missed two touchline conversions.

Craig Casey – 7

Ran into a stiff Italian shoulder but was allowed to play on, despite looking shook. Many of his clearing kicks were purposely left in play so the tempo could be kept high. Gave van Der Flier one hospital pass as he flung the pill too high. Passing was generally sharp throughout.

Andrew Porter – 6

Came up with a huge turnover inside his 22 after a dangerous Italian break. Scrum improved as the game went on. Oddly, missed five of nine tackles attempted.

Rónan Kelleher – 7

Produced a crucial turnover in the first half. Stuck 10 first half tackles while missing none. Had a 5-metre line out well read and picked off.

Finlay Bealham – 6

Penalised at one scrum as Italy looked to have the edge. Stuck a few tackles and showed up well in a couple of attacks before going off with an early leg injury.

Iain Henderson – 6

A good few soak tackles, early on, as he sought to match the Italian’s intensity. Jumped well in the line outs.

James Ryan – 7

Cantered over for an early try. Made a number of big, early carries. Conceded a lineout penalty, on 25 minutes. Showed his tendency to back his pack on penalty calls when easy points were on offer.

Caelan Doris – 8

Missed three tackles in the first half as the Italians showed some real spark, despite conceding steady tries. Won his side a first half turnover. Looked much more at home at No.8 when Conan went off.

Josh van der Flier – 9

Josh van der Flier

Made a lot of metres for his team, again, and had a good burst before the Aki try. Came up with a big turnover, on 44 minutes. Slowed up one Italian attack to buy his defence time and was in the right place to win another turnover for his side.

Jack Conan – 6

If this was a chance to lay down a marker to start against Scotland and England, Conan missed his chance. Made 21 metres off nine carries, stuck five of his six tackles but struggled to have a big impact and was driven back on a few carries.


Tom O’Toole (for Bealham ’35) – 9

Got the back slaps after a scrum penalty was won, on 43 minutes. Won his side another, two minutes later.

Ryan Baird (for Henderson ’54) – 8

Great kick-chase, soon after coming on. Won his side a penalty, on 65 minutes, that stretched the lead.

Peter O’Mahony (for Conan ’56) – 7

Stuck six tackles off the bench.

Dan Sheehan (for Kelleher ’56) – 7

Got about his business well.

Dave Kilcoyne (for Porter ’65) – 7

Some lusty tackles.

Conor Murray (for Casey ’65) – 7

Lovely offload to set up Hansen’s second.

Jack Crowley & Jimmy O’Brien – On too late to rate

We were keeping track of all the team news, reactions and comments from the game in our Live Feed RIGHT HERE:


15. Hugo Keenan
14. Mack Hansen
13. Bundee Aki
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. James Lowe
10. Ross Byrne
9. Craig Casey

1. Andrew Porter
2. Rónan Kelleher
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Iain Henderson
5. James Ryan
6. Caelan Doris
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O’Toole, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Jimmy O’Brien.

On Tuesday, outhalf Ross Byrne was up for media duties at the IRFU High Performance Centre at the Sport Ireland Campus, in Dublin.

“It would be big [to start against Italy] but I’ll just treat it like I normally would,” he said.

“I’ve played a lot of games this year and I am pretty happy with how that has gone and my preparation. I won’t be doing anything too different.”

Ireland vs. Italy kicks off at 2:15pm on Saturday, February 25th at Stadio Olimpico, in Rome.


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