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14th Feb 2023

The Ireland team that needs to start against Italy and maintain this stunning momentum

Patrick McCarry

Ireland team

Six changes are being suggested, with another couple of tweaks on the bench.

Ireland have a few days off, after Six Nations wins over Wales and France, but 25 of the core squad will assemble for a mini camp, later this week, to get tested by Richie Murphy’s U20s Ireland team.

The U20s are also two from two and eyeing another Grand Slam [they have two in the previous three championships] and contain the likes of Sam Prendergast, Conor O’Tighearnaigh, Ruadhán Quinn and La Rochelle winger Ike Anagu. We would dearly love to see footage of these training sessions against the senior lads.

Both sides were face Italy, in their respective competitions, in round three and the team selection debates have already begun. We are not expecting Andy Farrell to make wholesale changes, especially with another fallow weekend after round three, but Tadhg Beirne [lower leg] is definitely out.

On House of Rugby [LISTEN from 29:00 below], Greg O’Shea, Lindsay Peat and Jason Hennessy spoke about the loss of Beirne and debated possible changes for the Italy game.

Ireland team

House of Rugby discuss possible Ireland team changes

Following two positive games off the replacements bench, the House of Rugby crew are advocating Craig Casey and Ross Byrne getting starts against Italy, with a possible (but not essential) backline tweak.

“Bundee Aki needs minutes so he could come in,” Jason Hennessy suggested. “Bundee is a proven Lion, too, so it’s not like Ireland are just throwing a lad in for a run. It’s Bundee bloody Aki. Jimmy O’Brien is another lad in great form that could be involved.”

Asked if Jack Crowley could possibly get some minutes off the replacements bench, in Rome, Lindsay Peat agreed it would be a great experience with Johnny Sexton possibly running water or along the sideline for moral and strategic support. “I think Ross Byrne needs to start,” said Peat, “then definitely get Jack Crowley in there for a bit.”

To fill in the second row spot, Peat and Greg O’Shea mulled between Iain Henderson and Ryan Baird, with Hennessy acting as the deciding vote and siding with the versatile Leinster forward over the Ulster captain. Jack Conan could well freshen up the back row, while both Joe McCarthy and Gavin Coombes got mentions.


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

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

Replacements: Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O’Toole, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Jimmy O’Brien.

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