Ireland vs Italy LIVE: Six Nations rugby score and latest updates as Joey Carbery starts over Johnny Sexton

Ireland welcome Italy to the Aviva Stadium looking to get their Six Nations title hopes back on track

Follow live coverage as Ireland welcome Italy to Dublin looking to get their Six Nations back on track after defeat to France last time out.

In a game that many believe will go a long way to deciding the destination of the 2022 Six Nations title, Ireland equipped themselves well against France in Paris in Round 2 but Les Bleus ultimately had enough to emerge 30-24 winners. Andy Farrell’s side will now look to bounce back against the tournament’s whipping boys Italy.

Despite talismanic fly-half and captain Johnny Sexton being back fit, Joey Carbery is rewarded for an impressive showing against France in Round 2 by retaining the No.10 jersey. However, the Ireland back three has a new look to it as James Lowe returns from a hamstring injury to make his first start of the championship on the wing, while Michael Lowry is handed a Test debut at full-back.

Italy’s torturous pursuit of a first Six Nations win since 2015 rumbles on, with their ignominious losing streak now standing at a remarkable 34 matches, and it would be a brave person to believe that run ends today. Only once since joining the championship back in 2000 have the Azzurri beaten Ireland – that came in Rome in 2013 – and victory in Dublin may be a step too far at this point for an improving young squad, who hand a Six Nations debut to exciting winger Pierre Bruno for the trip west.

Follow all the latest updates from the Aviva Stadium below:

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A new name, and nation, in the middle

Taking charge of proceedings in the Six Nations for the first time today will be Nika Amashukeli, the first Georgian referee to be appointed to a Six Nations game, and the first from a Tier Two nation, too. The 27-year-old represented his country at age-group level as a player, but a number of concussions forced him to concentrate on a career as a match official. Amashukeli has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years since being promoted to the high performance group of World Rugby referees.

“There has been a huge reaction since news of my appointment came out and I have been overwhelmed by people congratulating me and showing their support – in Georgia and abroad,” he told World Rugby of the chance to control a Six Nations fixture.

“I will try to justify the appointment and represent my country proudly in that brilliant tournament.

“As a child, it was a dream watching the Six Nations and live coverage wasn’t even available then, so we had to go down to our local club and hope that someone had put highlights of the matches on YouTube.

“For Georgians, the Six Nations is always a big moment, and being part of it is something very special, I can’t describe it.”

Player to Watch – Federico Ruzza

Battling Beirne and Baird will be Federico Ruzza, who was probably Italy’s standout against England. Another skilful second row, Ruzza has been around for a while but his partnership with Niccolo Cannone is beginning to really develop.

Ruzza is a strong carrier with deft hands, but as ever much of his work this afternoon will come defensively. It looks like Ireland are prepared to play expansively with a load of mobile forwards sure to test Italy’s organisation and agility in the open field, but the Azzurri performed well on that front against France and will hope to again frustrate.

Player to Watch – Ryan Baird

Has there ever been a more mobile Irish second-row partnership than Tadhg Beirne and Ryan Baird? The home sides certainly have the horses for a fast track this afternoon, with two proper gallopers at lock who will trouble Italy both in the open and the tight.

The long-limbed Baird may find himself a little way down a competitive lock pecking order but he is a player of limitless potential with lineout spring and athleticism aplenty. This is a first Six Nations start for the St Michael’s College product who has had to bulk up a little to provide sufficient second row ballast at senior level, but has done so without compromising the turn of speed that can make him so obvious to the eye.

“I want to make it as meaningful as possible,” Baird said this week of a starting chance against Italy. “I really want to get the most out of my career, however many years it is. I really want it to be something special that I hold onto.

“So, I wouldn’t want to be caught up in smaller things that will take away from the whole occasion. When that whistle goes or in the lead up when I arrive, I’ll switch into a different mode altogether, getting ready for an 80-minute performance.”

Player to Watch – Michael Lowry

Michael Lowry has been at the centre of so much of the fine back play that Ulster have produced this season, and this is a deserved debut for the play-making full-back, who can also play at fly-half. There are some who have dismissed Lowry’s international credentials due to his size, but Andy Farrell was clear this week that he sees the 23-year-old’s smaller stature as likelier to cause issues for the opposition than Ireland.

“It’s never been a problem,” said Farrell when asked about Lowry’s stature. “It’s a nightmare for somebody like me, if I was playing against him. His size is an added bonus for him. It makes him an absolute nightmare for people to handle.

“Since his first day at Ulster, he hasn’t grown has he since then? But he’s certainly got braver, more dynamic, more game-awareness, more game-sense. He’s able to play the game in many different ways. He’s explosive, hits a line, he’s brave, so we’re hoping he can be himself on Sunday.”

Player to Watch – Leonardo Marin

Italy experimented with a double playmaker system during last year’s Six Nations, with Carlo Canna providing a steadying veteran presence alongside Paolo Garbisi, but Kieran Crowley’s first two-ten gambit is slightly more adventurous. With Leonardo Marin inserted in place of the unfortunate Marco Zanon, whose hard charging had been a feature of Italy’s best attacking moments against France and England, the Italian 9-10-12 playmaking axis are all 21 or under.

Marin has stepped up at Benetton this year after Garbisi’s departure, most often backing up with South African recruit Rhyno Smith. He is big enough to play at centre even if ten may be his preferred long-term home – as former England defence coach Paul Gustard told RugbyPass of a player he now coaches in Treviso, Marin “kicks like a mule”. It does feel a bit of a gamble to go with an untried, young 10-12 partnership. Can Italy broaden their attack and cause Ireland some problems in the outside channels?

James Lowe back amongst things for Ireland

There is a welcome return to Irish green for James Lowe this afternoon, with the Leinster wing having overcome a hamstring issue. Mack Hansen really stood out with Lowe absent and this could be something of a play-off for a starting place against England – Lowe believes a new-look Irish back-three could light-up Dublin this afternoon.

James Lowe hopes for Irish highs against Italy

The 29-year-old has overcome a hamstring injury.

Team News – Italy

Italy also make a few alterations. The tight five remains intact but Giovanni Pettinelli starts on the blindside with Braam Steyn dropping to the bench and Sebastian Negri out of the 23 after being knocked out against England.

The most notable change is in the centres – the forthright Marco Zanon has had a strong tournament but Kieran Crowley is keen to look at something different, with young fly-half-cum-centre Leonardo Marin possessed of plenty of play-making qualities and a powerful boot. Plenty felt that Pierre Bruno was unlucky not to be amongst things for Italy in the opening two fixtures of this Six Nations, but will have a chance to impress from the right wing at the Aviva Stadium. Crowley retains a 6:2 bench split, with Ivan Nemer returning to provide loosehead cover.

Italy XV: Fischetti, Lucchesi, Ceccarelli; Canonne, Ruzza; Pettinelli, Lamaro, Halafihi; Varney, Garbisi; Ioane, Marin, Brex, Bruno; Padovani.

Substitutes: Faiva, Nemer, Pasquali, Sisi, Zuliani, Steyn; Fusco, Zanon.

Team News – Ireland

Andy Farrell has balanced the new with the old in making a handful of changes to the Ireland side beaten in Paris. Ryan Baird and Peter O’Mahony are promoted in the back five of the forwards, with O’Mahony taking the captaincy on the blindside and Caelan Doris shifted to number eight. Dan Sheehan is another new starter after such an eye-catching performance in relief of a stricken Ronan Kelleher against France.

There is a switch of centres with Robbie Henshaw elevated, while Leinster teammate James Lowe is fit again and straight in from the start, where he is joined by a new colleague as Michael Lowry makes an Ireland debut at full-back. The Ulsterman may be small in stature but this may be just the occasion for some of his flash footwork and excellent linking game.

Joey Carbery retains his starting place but ack among the substitutes is Johnny Sexton, while Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Kieran Treadwell and Craig Casey are in line for their first appearances of this campaign.

Ireland XV: Porter, Sheehan, Furlong; Beirne, Baird; O’Mahony, van der Flier, Doris; Gibson-Park, Carbery; Lowe, Henshaw, Ringrose, Hansen; Lowry.

Substitutes: Herring, Kilcoyne, Bealham, Treadwell, Conan; Casey, Sexton, Hume.

Ireland vs Italy

With kick-off about 50 minutes away in Dublin, let’s take a closer look at the two teams…

France march on

And before events at Twickenham, it was France who went marching on, displaying plenty of accuracy in their adventurous six-try win over Scotland:

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