With the likes of Wales taking the opportunity against the Azzurri to rest many Ireland have decided to only change players in the pack with the back-line the same as two weeks ago.
Dave Kilcoyne and Sean Cronin come into the front row in place of Cian Healy and Rory Best respectively. Remarkably this will be Cronin’s 68th test but his first ever 6 Nations start. Completing the trio is the ever-reliable Tadhg Furlong.
Behind them Ultan Dillane slots joins Quinn Roux, after his brilliant performance off the bench against the Scots and his man of the match performance for Connacht last weekend.
In the back-row, Peter O’Mahony is captain with Best on the bench, with Sean O’Brien on the opposite side, while Jordi Murphy has a chance at eight as Jack Conan is suffering from abdominal tightness.
The backs are the same as two weeks ago against Scotland with Conor Murray at scrum-half and Johnny Sexton at fly-half, with Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell continuing their partnership in the centre.
Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls remain on the wings, with Rob Kearney finishing up the XV.
On the bench Ireland have some serious firepower with Jack McGrath, Iain Henderson and Andrew Conway returning to the squad. While Jack Carty could make his 6 Nations debut if he comes on.
Here's the Ireland team to play Italy on Sunday in Round 3 of the @SixNationsRugby Championship.#TeamOfUs #ITAvIRE #ShoulderToShoulder pic.twitter.com/RdF7JNduIF— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 22, 2019
The Italian’s who are missing star captain Sergio Parisse, announced their team earlier and Ireland will have to be wary of some key men in the line-up.
Andrea Lovotti, Leonardo Ghiraldini, and Simone Ferrari start in the front-row, with Federico Ruzza and Dean Budd behind them.
The pack is made up by Jimmy Tuivaiti, Mazime Mbanda, and the hugely impressive Abraham Steyn, who will look to lead the team in the absence of Parisse.
Tito Tebaldi is at scrum-half and will be partnered by Tomasso Allan at fly-half, while Luca Morisi slots in beside the electric Michele Campagnaro in the centre.
Angelo Esposito and Edoardo Padovani are on the wings with Jayden Hayward making up the XV at full-back.
Irish-born Ian McKinley may have a part to play from the bench if he gets on.
#Italrugby, annunciata la formazione in campo domenica con l'Irlanda ➡ https://t.co/6YDWGkP35E#ITAvIRE #insieme @SeiNazioniRugby @SixNationsRugby pic.twitter.com/0aXk5IpSIE— Italrugby (@Federugby) February 22, 2019
It had been questioned whether there would be a vast amount of changes to the team that won last time out, but it seems as though there wasn’t much choice for Ireland.
Head coach Joe Schmidt confirmed that Joey Carbery has a slight hamstring problem and therefore is unable to take part in the game.
As mentioned above Conan is injured too, while Robbie Henshaw is still getting back up to top nick and Jordan Larmour injured his finger during the week and they are resting him.
Schmidt explained that even if Carbery was fit Sexton would have probably started ahead of him in Rome.
“I think we probably would have started Johnny anyway, to be honest. He’s had very little game time since the Munster game in December, whereas Joey has been really resilient this season and has had plenty of game time,” he said.
He also told the media how some players have earned their way into the team, while saying others deserved a rest.
“Some of it (the selection) is to offer an opportunity, to offer a reward to what we’ve seen in training so far like Dave Kilcoyne and Ultan Dillane – it gives us a little bit more confidence when Ultan goes back to Connacht last week and get the man of the match. Across the board those guys have earned their opportunity – and it gives us the opportunity to give some guys the weekend off,” he added.
The two sides last met in November when Ireland ran out 54-7 winners in Chicago.
Ireland are currently fourth in the table after the opening two rounds and will be looking to build on their win in Murrayfield last time out while Italy will be hoping to avoid a 20th straight defeat in the competition when they host the reigning champions.
Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.
England men’s head coach Eddie Jones and the RFU have agreed a contract extension which will see him continue his role until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Jones joined England Rugby at the end of 2015 and has coached the men’s national side on 54 occasions winning 42, drawing one and losing 11 – giving him a win ratio of 78%, the highest in the history of England coaches.
Under Jones, England has won two Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, a 3-0 away Test series win against Australia in the same year, an unbeaten run of 18 matches equalling New Zealand’s record and were finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Jones said: “The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing. We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right. Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes. Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it. We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward.”
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community. In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news. We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby. The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible. We are all excited by what this squad can do and having Eddie leading the team is very important to us.
“We reached an understanding soon after returning from Japan but there were some things that we wanted to make sure worked for both sides. We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.”
Ahead of the Guinness Six Nations Jones confirmed Simon Amor and Matt Proudfoot would join Steve Borthwick and John Mitchell as his assistant coaches. Jason Ryles will join later in the year as skills coach following Borthwick’s departure towards the end of the season.
RFU CEO gives COVID-19 planning & support update
Bill Sweeney – RFU, CEO
My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU continue to be with everyone impacted by the difficult and exceptional situation we are all facing, both across the country and within our own rugby union community.
Earlier today we held a virtual board meeting and I am writing to advise you of the actions that have been agreed to offer a support package directly funded from the RFU worth £7m to provide support for community clubs in England.
To support clubs we are today announcing that the RFU will be providing a £7m relief package for community clubs. The package includes monies ring fenced and diverted for the community game as well as additional funding. These measures include:
• An early release of £800,000 cash due to clubs through the ticketing fund.
• Early release of final funding payments (£600,000) to Constituent Bodies and suspension of the activity plans against which this was allocated, enabling them to utilise this to provide “immediate support grants” to clubs most in need. In addition £400,000 will be made available to Constituent Bodies who elect to match fund from their own reserves.
• A suspension of the Quarterly loan repayments for clubs with outstanding loans due in March (£335,000).
• The creation of a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between circa £2k and circa £10k to clubs, with deferred re-payments for six months and repayable over three years.
We will be providing more details on this financial package in the coming week. We will also be issuing regular club recovery updates with practical advice on how government grants can be accessed as well as other business management advice.
We welcome government interventions which will provide business rate holidays and grants for clubs.
The RFU will continue to provide a free helpline to assist clubs with legal and tax related matters: https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/running-your-club/legal-and-administration
Significant progress has been made on the process for considering the implications of ending the season early. We will ensure a fair and balanced outcome for the game and are now committed to update on this by the middle of April.
No one can predict every possible outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown. We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn. We will continue to monitor against this assumption and review and revise planning where necessary.
The RFU had budgeted for a loss making year within a four year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country.
The RFU’s biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to re-invest back into the game. In that sense we are like every other club in the Union, when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.
Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this. The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25%. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75%.
We are continuing our support to ensure colleagues and communities are given help to follow government advice and are providing recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy and a range of new content will be made available to players and fans across our social media channels.
We are discussing with government and the NHS the role the RFU and Twickenham Stadium can play in providing volunteers as well as support for the NHS including accommodation, parking and meal provisioning.
I am confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period. In the meantime, we are working hard with the wider rugby community to take the necessary measures to safeguard a financially resilient Union so that we can.
Rodney Parade to help in fight against coronavirus
Rodney Parade has become the latest sporting venue to open its doors to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
The Newport stadium has been provided free of charge as a base for front-line NHS staff to check if they have the virus and are able to continue working. At this stage only NHS staff are eligible to be tested at Rodney Parade to see if they have COVID-19. Dragons managing director Mark Jones said: “The health service and care workers are doing an incredible job in such difficult circumstances so we are happy to offer our help and support in any way we can.
“Playing our part in the local community is at the heart of what we’re about at the Dragons and in times of crisis people stick together. We would urge everyone to follow the latest NHS advice on protecting themselves from the virus, particularly to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.”
A statement from Aneurin Bevan Health Board read: “The health and wellbeing of our staff is essential for delivering services for the people of Gwent. It is fundamental during this time when the most vulnerable people need us most.
“We have set up a drive-through facility to test staff for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and help us get our teams back in to work on the front line. The testing site is located at Rodney Parade in Newport and we ask that everyone practises the stay-at-home guidance and does not visit the site.
“Everyone at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board would like to thank the team at Rodney Parade for their community-focused approach and accommodating us during these difficult times.”