Ireland continue their Guinness Six Nations title defence with Sunday afternoon’s match against Italy in Dublin.
Andy Farrell’s men launched their campaign with a record bonus-point win away to France, while the Azzurri were narrowly beaten by England.
Here, the PA news agency picks out some of the main talking points ahead of the Aviva Stadium clash.
Too early to talk about successive Grand Slams?
Caelan Doris was touted as a potential successor to Johnny Sexton as Ireland captain. A calf injury for new skipper Peter O’Mahony means the 25-year-old has the chance to lead his country for the first time just two games into the post-Sexton era. Doris made his debut in the opening Test of Farrell’s reign in 2020 and has since developed into a genuine world-class talent. He switches from number eight to openside flanker this weekend, a position from which he scored two tries during the Azzurri’s last visit to Dublin in August. With veteran flanker O’Mahony set to turn 38 before the 2027 World Cup, Doris’ temporary appointment is a major audition for the future.
Big Joe’s big impact
Azzurri blues to continue?
Italy impressed in a narrow 27-24 loss against England in Rome last weekend. But they have never won on Irish soil during the Six Nations era. Their sole victory over Ireland in 24 championship matches was a 22-15 Stadio Olimpico success in 2013. Mercurial full-back Ange Capuozzo is back from illness to strengthen the visitors. Yet new head coach Gonzalo Quesada has lost influential back-row forwards Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone due to injury. Ireland are overwhelming favourites to register a 17th consecutive home win, dating back to 2021. It will be some story if Italy somehow defy the odds.