Ireland-Italy predictions: Ireland ready for a big home win | Sports News

Brendan Moran

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Ireland’s Jonny Sexton should see plenty of second-half action

Brendan Moran

Free rugby tips, best bets and analysis for Ireland v Italy in the Six Nations.

where to watch

ITV & Virgin Media One, 3pm Sunday

Best bet

Ireland -38
2pts Evs bet365

Match preview

When Italy beat Ireland in Rome at the 2013 Six Nations it was to mark a turning point, but not one the Azzurri wanted. Since then, Ireland have stepped on the gas in this game, especially in Dublin, and another big home win is in sight.

Certainly when Ireland got their first revenge they got it right, winning 46-7 in Dublin the following year, and in three subsequent encounters at the Aviva Stadium Ireland reached the 50 point mark each time.

Indeed, until that watershed moment in 2013, all seven of Ireland’s Six Nations home matches against Italy had won by an average margin of 21 points, with 3.4 tries scored per game. Since then, the average margin in their four wins has been 38 points and the average tries have climbed to 7.75 per game.

Additionally, Ireland have had a ruthless streak over the past year, racking up 71 points against the United States in the summer, 60 against Japan in the fall and 53 against Argentina two weeks later. And don’t forget that Leinster, who provide ten players from Sunday’s starting 15, started the year with 89-7, 64-7 wins in Europe. Scoring big is nothing new for this group of players.

For Italy, quite the opposite happened. The Azzurri have failed to reach the 20-point mark in their last 16 games, averaging less than 11 points per game, and failed to score a single point in their last 130 minutes of rugby.

Only two of the starting Azzurri have more than 20 caps and their defense seemed at sea against England last week, leaving Eddie Jones to regret some missed chances.

Ireland have looked sharp and clinical and are unlikely to pass up so many chances. Coach Andy Farrell has made some changes, bringing in full-back Michael Lowry for his debut plus in-form winger again James Lowe, but they form an exciting trio with Mack Hansen.

Jonny Sexton starts on the bench but the fly-half is sure to have plenty of time in the second half given next week’s huge clash at Twickenham, and this could be the time the hosts retire.

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