2018 Six Nations: Ireland v Italy Preview

Players attempt to score a try

Ireland will be looking to claim the full five-point haul when they host Italy on Saturday the 10th of February.

Joe Schmidt and his chargers will be looking to keep the pressure up on England by bagging a big win over Italy this coming weekend. The Irish mentor saw his side pull off a snatch and grab at the Stade de France last week courtesy of an 82nd minute Johnny Sexton drop goal. Italy, however, were unable to get anything out of their opening round clash with the English as the defending champions put the Azzurri to the sword, running out 15-46 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Ireland v Italy | Saturday 10 February | Aviva Stadium | 16:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland N/A | Draw 40/1 | Italy 25/1
Handicap
Ireland (-33.5) 9/10 | Italy (+33.5) 9/10


Ireland
Talk about bailing your side out! The Irish looked dead and buried with the clock in the red and Schmidt's men positioned deep inside their own territory. Two moments of magic from veteran pivot Johnathan Sexton would spark a famous comeback that will live long in the hearts of Irish rugby fans.

The first bit of magic saw Sexton drop a pinpoint cross-kick into the hands of fellow veteran Keith Earles, which saw Ireland finally advance into French territory. The next moment of brilliance occurred a minute and a half later when Sexton dropped back into the pocket and banged a 43-metre drop goal to hand his side the win.

There's been a lot of talk about the exciting young Irish group that's coming through, but Sexton's brilliance showed why Schmidt was reluctant to do away with the old guard for the opener. Schmidt is more inclined to hand out a few debuts and field lesser experienced players this weekend, however. The likes of Jordan Larmour and Joey Carberry should get starts as it helps Ireland two-fold; they get to rest proven yet ageing talent like Sexton while the youngsters gain some vital international experience.

Italy
 If you took just took a quick glance at last week's scoreline against England you would certainly think the Azzurri were atrocious as usual but this was actually one of the better Italian performances over the last 12 months. Sergio Parisse's men showed a lot of heart during their 15-46, with three late tries inflating what was a close-ish scoreline.

The Azzurri were actually full value during the first-half of their encounter with England, going into the sheds only seven points down. The problem though is, while they were competitive during the first stanza, they once again fell off the boil in the final quarter of a game. This is an issue that Connor O'Shea has tried to remedy since the start of his tenure but with little to no success.

Verdict: Ireland (-33.5) 9/10
Is there any team more adept than Ireland at running team ragged during the final quarter of a game? The Springboks will tell you no. I fear the Italians are going to catch a massive hiding here. 

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net

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