Saturday 11th February 14.25 GMT
It was a disappointing opening weekend for both these teams as well as this column’s attempt to accurately predict outcomes. Whilst we were in good company with regard our nod toward an Ireland win over Scotland, we decided to go balls out and give Italy the shout in their game against Wales. That match ended in a 7 – 33 loss for the hosts but, true to form, they were still in the game until the 60th minute when a combination of fatigue and a sin-binning saw Wales surge off into the sunset.
Head not in the game
Ireland put in a very lacklustre display against a very fired up Scotland side and, though blown away in the first half, managed to get back ahead in the second half before some very uncharacteristic sloppiness handed the initiative back to their hosts. In their favour, the history books will show that they were the fist team to pick up a bonus point in the Six Nations, albeit a losing one. Hurray.
Time to re-focus
The chances are that they won’t be as loose in this encounter against Italy. For a start, they will have had their feet held to the fire by their coach for most of the week and with inclusion of Donnacha Ryan as lock, the bite and dog that was missing last week should be back to the fore. In addition to that change, Cian Healy comes in at loose head for Jack McGrath in what will be a ferocious encounter between the two sets of forwards.
Any hope left for Italy?
It’s hard to know what Italy can take from their performance last week. They led Wales going into the second half but failed to register a single point thereafter. So it looks like the same old Italy: physical and troublesome until their tank begins to empty in the face of fitter teams. Their coach, Connor O’Shea, will be looking for his side to put it up to the country of his birth but his best hope lies in Ireland being as lackadaisical as they were against Scotland and even then, that would be a near-impossible mountain for his team to climb.
Although Italy have run Ireland close on a couple of occasions, that’s realistically the best they can hope for here. Ireland, for their part, received a proper kick up the arse last week and will be looking for nothing other than a bonus point win in order to maintain any hope of winning the championship. All things being equal, it’s hard to see past them winning. They are a predictably short price to do so with NetBet offering the best odds at 3/19. The best value around is probably the 9/1 BetVictor are offering for an Italy/Ireland Half Time/Full Time.