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Six Nations: Injury-stricken Ireland still hold the edge in Italy

| 06.02.2015

There’ll be plenty of punters looking to take on defending Six Nations champions Ireland against Italy, with Joe Schmidt’s side shorn off world-class trio Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip and Jonathan Sexton.

Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse led his men to a famous 22-15 win over their next opponents the last time Ireland visited Rome, but that was at the back-end of Declan Kidney’s reign in the Lansdowne Road hotseat.

Schmidt’s side are an entirely different proposition. Here are our three best bets based around an away win.

Ireland to win by 11-20 points @ 2/1

With Jack McGrath, who started each of Ireland’s three Autumn International victories, in for Healy at loosehead prop, and the return of flanker Sean O’Brien tempering the loss of Heaslip at number eight, the champions look extremely well covered.

Even Sexton’s absence at fly-half hasn’t sparked panic, with Munster’s Ian Keatley preferred to Leinster’s Ian Madigan, both of whom are having fine seasons for their provinces.

Ireland’s two previous Rome visits prior to their 2013 defeat saw them win by two points and 29 points. Expect something in between this time round.

Tommy Bowe to score the first try @ 7/1

There’s nothing between Bowe and Simon Zebo in this market at 7/1 a piece, after the pair went over within five minutes of each other early on in the 26-23 win over Australia a couple of months ago.

We fancy the Ulsterman, whose injuries have kept him from making a Six Nations appearances since 2012, to sneak it.

Sean O’Brien to score a try at anytime @ 10/3

By the same rationale, the original ‘Tullow Tank’ should be raring to go after missing most of the last couple of campaigns due to shoulder reconstruction surgery.

O’Brien has gone over 18 times for club and country since his debut for Leinster in 2008, so the 27-year-old clearly knows where the line is. Punters take note.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Alex Fortune