We look ahead to Sunday’s 2024 Guinness Men’s Six Nations match in Dublin with our Ireland vs Italy prediction and preview.

Ireland put their Rugby World Cup heartache behind them and kicked this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations off in style by handing France their heaviest home defeat in the Championship for over a century. As a result, Ireland’s already lofty expectations have been heightened even further and anything short of a comfortable home win against Italy will be viewed as a disappointment.

Italy showed that they’re no pushovers in Round 1 though, finishing within three points against the only side they’re yet to beat in the Six Nations, the closest they’ve come to beating England. A similarly gallant display against France in the opening round of the 2023 Championship proved to be as good as it got for the Azzurri though, losing their remaining four games by double figure margins, so they’ll be keen to ensure they maintain the standards they failed to keep up last year.


Ireland’s previous set-piece woes seemed to fade away on the opening weekend as they reigned supreme at the lineout, winning all 13 of their own throws, the only side with a 100% record, and stealing two of France’s throws for good measure. Italy were one of two other teams with an 80%+ lineout success rate (82%, also England), but it was at the scrum where they really excelled, retaining possession from each of their six put ins in addition to winning two penalties from England’s four scrums.

Ireland’s ruthlessness in the red zone was as evident as ever, with Andy Farrell’s men averaging a stellar 4.2 points scored per attacking 22m entry, the highest rate of any team. They may find it harder to take their opportunities against an Italian side who conceded just 2.0 points per defensive 22m entry though, also the best rate of any team in Round 1.

Points per 22 Entry Six Nations


Ireland (8%) and Italy (6%) retained possession from a lesser share of their open-play kicks than any other sides in the opening round of this year’s Six Nations, with the Azzurri also gaining fewer metres from their kicks than any other team (547) and while both sides have the carrying ability to negate this to some degree, they may need to make improvements in that department.

Discipline was another area that both sides will have had to work on this week – only Scotland (16) conceded more penalties than Ireland (13) or Italy (11) in Round 1. Both teams also saw their captains sent to the sin bin last week; Peter O’Mahony gets the weekend off but Michele Lamaro will be looking to set a better example for his teammates this time around.

Standout Players

On the Italian side, Monty Ioane and Tommaso Menoncello both dazzled in attack last week, being two of just three players to carry for 100+ metres (also Cameron Winnett). Ioane gained 55 of those metres from his stunning solo try at the death which was an apt conclusion to a performance that saw him beat six defenders in total, the most of any player in Round 1.

Menoncello’s tally of five defenders beaten was over twice as any as any other centre last time out and he’s now beaten five defenders in three of his last four Tests for the Azzurri, the only exception being against Ireland in Dublin last August where he sustained an injury that would subsequently rule him out of contention for a first World Cup appearance.

Irish eyes were certainly smiling in France last weekend, none more so than Calvin Nash who became the first Munster player to score on his Six Nations debut since Simon Zebo over a decade ago. Provincial teammate Jack Crowley also helped himself to a try assist on his first Six Nations start in a performance that helped quench fears over how Ireland would cope in a post-Sexton landscape.

It was another debutant who would claim man of the match in Marseille though in the form of Joe McCarthy, whose dominance with and without the ball in hand was a spectacle to behold. Among forwards to make 5+ carries last weekend, McCarthy was the only one to cross the gainline from over 80% of them (89%).

Ireland vs Italy Prediction

The Opta supercomputer is making Ireland overwhelming favourites for this Six Nations match, with a 94.5% chance of defeating Italy on Sunday.

The Italians have only won two matches against Tier 1 nations since the start of 2017, and the supercomputer doesn’t give them much chance of making that three, here (5.0%).

Ireland vs Italy Prediction Six Nations

Ireland vs Italy Lineups

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Andrew Porter, 2 Dan Sheehan, 3 Finlay Bealham, 4 Joe McCarthy, 5 James Ryan, 6 Ryan Baird, 7 Caelan Doris (c), 8 Jack Conan.

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jordan Larmour.

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 1 Danilo Fischetti, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 5 Federico Ruzza, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 8 Michele Lamaro (c).

Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Andrea Zambonin, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori.

Other Six Nations Round 2 Fixtures:

Scotland vs France, Murrayfield Stadium – Saturday 10 February, 14:15 GMT

England vs Wales, Twickenham – Saturday 10 February, 16:45 GMT

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