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22nd Feb 2023

Ross Byrne expected to start against Italy as James Ryan takes over captaincy

Patrick McCarry

Big step up in a crucial match for ‘Cheese’.

James Ryan won his 50th cap in Ireland’s recent Six Nations win over France. This Saturday, in Rome, he is set for another big honour.

The IRFU confirmed, this afternoon, that Ryan will captain Ireland against Italy in the third round of the 2023 Six Nations. The Leinster lock will take over the captaincy from Johnny Sexton, who will travel to Rome with the squad but may not even feature on the bench for the game.

“It’s obviously a huge honour, very cool to captain my country,” Ryan told reporters at a briefing at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre. “[Johnny will] be travelling over with us so it’s great to have him around.”

This is not the first time that Ryan has captained Ireland and the union, although they could have put Sexton forward a day before the team was announced opted to get out ahead of this one. The full faith and backing of Andy Farrell, in Ryan, is clear to see.

On the latest House of Rugby [LISTEN from 29:45 below], Greg O’Shea, Lindsay Peat and Jason Hennessy discussed the prospect of Sexton sitting out the Italy game, and whether Jack Crowley or Ross Byrne could start.

James Ryan

Raft of senior Ireland stars miss out

With Tadhg Beirne added to the injury list, it now means the following senior players are out of contention for the Italy game.

  • Tadhg Furlong
  • Robbie Henshaw
  • Tadhg Beirne
  • Jamison Gibson Park
  • Joe McCarthy
  • Keith Earls
  • Andrew Conway

Johnny Sexton may miss out on the match-day squad yet travel to train with and support the players selected. Rob Herring was in Return To Play protocols after going off in the first half against France. With Rónan Kelleher and Dan Sheehan both fit, the safe option of resting Herring for another week could be decided upon.

Peter O’Mahony and Garry Ringrose would also have been in contention for captaincy, with Sexton missing out, so that could also tip the team selection hand of Andy Farrell.

In our expected Ireland team to face Italy, we have Ringrose starting at outside centre but O’Mahony on the bench and Jack Conan coming into the back row. Joey Carbery is back in the squad but we expect Ross Byrne to start and Jack Crowley to deputise.

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

WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE:

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