Six Nations: Ireland unchanged for Italy game

Jonathan Sexton
Jonathan Sexton will start for Ireland after recovering from a thigh injury

RBS Six Nations Championship 2012: Ireland v Italy

Venue:
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Date:
Saturday, 25 February
Kick-off:
13:30 GMT
Coverage:
Live on BBC One, BBC 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Declan Kidney has named the same Irish side that he picked for the postponed clash against France for Saturday's Six Nations game against Italy.

Jonathan Sexton stays at fly-half after recovering from the thigh injury that made him a late fitness doubt for the scheduled game at the Stade de France.

The return of Keith Earls in place of Fergus McFadden was the only change from the opening defeat by Wales.

Earls missed the opener because his newly born daughter was unwell.

The replacements bench is also unchanged from the postponed Paris clash with uncapped Munster player Peter O'Mahony again included.

Ireland will play four games in a row over the next four weeks with the re-arranged France game taking place on Sunday 4 March.

After the Italy game, they must relocate to Paris before preparing for a six-day turnaround to face Scotland.

The Irish then conclude their championship against England at Twickenham on 17 March.

"We were tempted to make changes to the team. We had a long discussion about it," said Kidney at Tuesday's team announcement.

"But this team was good enough to play France so it's good enough to play against Italy as well.

"We need to approach this game by game, rather than as a block of four fixtures, and that's what we're doing."

Ireland have lost their last three matches at the Aviva Stadium but have never succumbed to Italy in the Six Nations.

However, last season they required a last-gasp drop-goal from Ronan O'Gara to escape the Stadio Flaminio with a 13-11 victory.

Italy have lost their opening two matches of the championship, away to France and at home to England.

New Italy coach Jacques Brunel is attempting to introduce a more rounded game in response to past failings, but Ireland captain Paul O'Connell insists the pack remains Italy's greatest strength.

"It's probably the most physical game of the tournament. They have an excellent maul, scrum and are very good around the fringes," said O'Connell.

"They are keeping the ball in hand a bit more and are being more expansive, but they're still really tough up front.

"They've attacked the short side a little more and have looked a very good team over the last two games, despite losing to France and England."

Ireland team to face Italy at the Aviva Stadium: Rob Kearney (Leinster), Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Keith Earls (Munster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), Paul O'Connell (Munster, capt), Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (Leinster), Tom Court (Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Ronan O'Gara (Munster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster).

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