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Match Report: Ireland Scrape Past Energetic Italy

Ireland have kept their championship hopes alive with a fortunate win over Italy

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Ireland were lucky to come away with a 26-16 win over an aggressive Italy side in the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

Ireland who were looking to push on from their win over Scotland last time out caused most of their own problems with handling errors and silly penalties allowing Italy to stay in the game.

The visitors had a scrappy start up until the 12th minute when Quinn Roux finished off a 19 phase move after strong carries from the likes of Tadhg Furlong and Jacob Stockdale. Johnny Sexton kicked over the conversion to make it 7-0.

It seemed as though they might kick on from there, but within seven minutes Tomasso Allan got the hosts on the scoreboard with a penalty.

The Italian’s shot themselves in the foot immediately after scoring. Sexton kicked off, with Italy mistiming their catch, before a knock-on fell into Stockdale’s hands.

The winger did the rest, bursting through some defenders and touching down to give Ireland some breathing space. The kick was missed meaning it was 12-3 after 22 minutes.

Again, Ireland allowed Italy into the game, with Sean Cronin giving a penalty away for being offside which Allan slotted between the posts.

With the clock just ticking past the 30-minute mark Italy were in for their opening try of the game.

Edoardo Padovani capitalised on a Sean Cronin over-throw from a line-out. Jayden Hayward broke through the defence and after a couple of phases Allan sent a long-pass out to Padovani who scored.

Allan missed the extras, but it was a one-point game at 12-11.

With two minutes remaining in the first-half, Italy went in front. Breaking from their own 22, the Italian’s raced down the other end of the pitch with Luca Morisi getting the try. Again, the kick was missed, and it was 16-12 to Italy at half-time.

The second-half was filled with errors with two Irish tries the only highlights of the half.

Keith Earls scored with 49 minutes on the clock after sustained pressure from the men in green, Conor Murray took the kick this time and sent the ball flying over.

Ireland had to wait until the 66th minute for their bonus-point try, as Murray touched down after a rolling-maul from a line-out. He took the kick himself and scored once more to make it 26-16.

That’s how it remained as Ireland picked up five points to move into third in the table and keep their championship hopes alive.

After the game Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt admitted his relief at getting the win but was not pleased with the overall performance.

“There’s a relief, it’s done, in the end we got our five points and that’s what we came for, but we were too inaccurate,” he said.

Winger and try-scorer Stockdale also spoke following the game and when asked why his team are not flourishing as they have been over the past couple of years, he couldn’t answer.

“That’s the million dollar question I suppose,” he said in relation to what his team’s problems are.

Ireland will have to be better when they host France in two weeks’ time if they want to have any chance of winning another title and while there were positives for Italy, they will play England next looking to now end a 20-game unbeaten run in the 6 Nations.

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6 Nations

Ireland name Six Nations Squad

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

The Ireland coaching group have selected a squad of 36 players for the upcoming 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship.

Jonathan Sexton will captain the squad for a second Six Nations campaign and there are two uncapped players included – Munster scrum half Craig Casey and Ulster prop Tom O’Toole.

O’Toole was named in the Ireland panel at the start of the 2020 Championship, while Casey, who won a Grand Slam with the Ireland Under-20s in 2019, trained with the squad last October.

Ireland have just two fixtures at the Aviva Stadium in the 2021 Six Nations, hosting France in the second round and England during the final weekend of the tournament.

In the opening round Ireland will take on Wayne Pivac’s Wales at the Principality Stadium. Their first two games of the 2021 Championships against Wales and France will both take place on Sunday afternoons.

Ireland’s third round match is at the Stadio Olimpico against Italy, and in the penultimate round they will face Scotland.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell commented: “Since the autumn international window, the club season has had a good few disruptions and the cancellation of the European fixtures means there have been less opportunities for players to show form or to return from injury and get some minutes under their belts.

Tadhg (Furlong) hasn’t played in quite a while but he is ready to join the group. Unfortunately Jacob (Stockdale) will not be available to us.”

All Ireland games will be televised on Virgin Media in the Republic of Ireland, and on ITV (v France, Italy & England) and BBC (v Wales & Scotland) in Northern Ireland.

Ireland Squad – 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship:

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

Backs (17):

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 30
Billy Burns (Ulster) 3
Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 11
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster) *
Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 24
Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster) 1
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 88
Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 14
Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster) 5
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 47
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster) 6
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 24
James Lowe (Leinster) 2
Stuart McCloskey (Bangor/Ulster) 4
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 87
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 30
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt) 95

Forwards (19):

Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 17
Will Connors (UCD/Leinster) 5
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 7
Ultan Dillane (Galway Corinthians/Connacht) 17
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 25
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 104
Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 5
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 58
Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 16
Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster) 6
Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 39
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 73
Tom O’Toole (Banbridge/Ulster) *
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 32
Quinn Roux (Galwegians/Connacht) 16
Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 26
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 32
CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 46
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 28

* Denotes uncapped player

Ireland 2021 Guinness Six Nations Fixtures:

Wales v IRELAND

Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Sunday 7th February, KO 15.00

VIRGIN / BBC

IRELAND v France

Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Sunday 14th February, KO 15.00

VIRGIN / ITV

Italy v IRELAND

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Saturday 27th February, KO 14.15

VIRGIN / ITV

Scotland v IRELAND

BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh

Sunday 14th March, KO 15.00

VIRGIN / BBC

IRELAND v England

Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Saturday 20th March, KO 16.45

VIRGIN / ITV

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6 Nations

Pivac names squad for 2021 Six Nations

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Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

Wales have named a 36-man squad for the forthcoming 2021 Guinness Six Nations campaign.

The squad features one uncapped player, Scarlets back-row Josh Macleod, who was named in the autumn squad last year but didn’t feature after picking up an injury before the campaign began.

Four players who made their international debuts in that campaign, Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Johnny Williams and Louis Rees-Zammit are all included.

Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones and Rhodri Jones (last appearance for Wales v South Africa in 2018) are named as the looseheads in the squad with Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias and Ken Owens (who missed the autumn campaign through injury) the hookers. Leon Brown, Tomas Francis and Dillon Lewis are the three named tight-heads.

Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Will Rowlands and Cory Hill are included as the second-rows.

Dan Lydiate returns to the international set-up (last appearance v Australia in 2018) and is named alongside Josh Navidi, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Macleod and Justin Tipuric.

Hardy who made his debut back in November is named as one of three scrum-halves along with Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams, who has returned from injury. Dan Biggar, Jarrod Evans and Sheedy are the three fly-halves.

Johnny Williams, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin are named as the centres with George North, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Rees-Zammit, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams named as Wales’ back-three options.

“We are hugely looking forward to meeting up as a squad on Monday and to the forthcoming campaign,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

“The Guinness Six Nations is an important tournament and we have selected a squad accordingly.

“As we consistently spoke about, the autumn for us was about opportunity and development, looking ahead to RWC 2023 and it served that purpose for us.

“This campaign is different, it is tournament rugby and we are excited to get going and to play our part.

“We have picked a squad for this tournament based on form and we are excited to meet up on Monday and to get our preparation underway.”

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Scotland name Six Nations squad.

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(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend has named a 35-man squad for the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, which begins with the Calcutta Cup clash vs England on Saturday 6 February.

The group, split between 20 forwards and 15 backs, sees eight new players called up who did not feature in the group that contested the recent 2020 Autumn Nations Cup.

Players who could potentially make their Scotland debuts include Edinburgh hooker, David Cherry, Sale hooker Ewan Ashman, Gloucester forward, Alex Craig and Bath centre, Cameron Redpath.

Returning to the squad are also Newcastle Falcons back rower, Gary Graham, Sale Sharks wing, Byron McGuigan, Glasgow Warriors hooker, Grant Stewart and London Irish prop Alan Dell.

In the pack Glasgow Warriors hooker George Turner is selected and joined in the front row by Zander Fagerson and Oli Kebble from Glasgow Warriors, alongside Edinburgh Rugby representatives WP Nel, Rory Sutherland and Simon Berghan.

Glasgow Warriors’ lock pairing Richie Gray and Scott Cummings, Exeter Chief, Jonny Gray are called up, along with Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist who left the ANC squad with an injury before the opening match.

Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie, who have both recently re-signed to long-term deals to stay at Edinburgh Rugby, are joined as back-row options by Glasgow Warrior Matt Fagerson and Scarlet’s Blade Thomson.

Gregor Townsend has chosen just two scrum-half’s for this campaign with Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price and Harlequins’ Scott Steele selected.

Linking up at half-back will be Racing 92’s Finn Russell who returns following an injury sustained in the concluding match of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations vs Wales and Edinburgh’s Jaco Van de Walt who made his Scotland debut in the ANC semi-final against Ireland.

Gloucester’s Chris Harris, Saracen Duncan Taylor, Glasgow Warrior Huw Jones and Harlequins’ James Lang are selected at centre.

In the back three Scotland Captain Stuart Hogg is joined by Edinburgh Rugby trio Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham and Duhan van de Merwe and Saracens’ Sean Maitland.

With an eye to the future three additional players have been invited to train with the squad during the campaign. Edinburgh Rugby back row forward, Rory Darge, Glasgow Warriors pair winger, Rufus MacLean and scrum-half, Jamie Dobie will join up with the squad, which goes into camp on Sunday.

Speaking on the squad selection Gregor Townsend said: “As coaches we have selected a group which we believe can build on the work our players put in throughout the recent Autumn Nations Cup campaign and kick on again in terms of performance levels.

“The depth we have across the squad enables us to bring in some new players who have excelled in recent weeks and others who we believe can perform at Test level.

“Our tournament gets off to a fantastic start with a fixture we look forward to every year against England and the opportunity to win back the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham.

“We are very aware how different this year’s competition will be due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it also provides a huge amount of positivity and enjoyment for millions of supporters and we are looking forward to contesting every match and giving this championship our very best.”

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