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Stephen Ferris: Much-changed Ireland to run riot against Italy

| 26.02.2022

Former Ireland international Stephen Ferris looks at the weekend’s Six Nations matches and gives us his best bets for all three games.

Click on the links for the match between Scotland and France at Murrayfield, and England’s big clash with Wales.

Ireland v Italy (Sunday, 15.00, ITV)

Andy Farrell has rung the changes for this week’s game against Italy. It’s a 3pm KO in Dublin and hopefully there are no more storms to talk about and we can all enjoy a wide and expansive fast-paced game.

The handicap for this game is currently 39 points. Out of the last six matches between Italy and Ireland, only once have Ireland won by more than the margin of 39 points, so surely you would have to back Italy +39? Not in my opinion, however.

Italy got trounced at home last week against England and I’m sure confidence is fairly low. Ireland on the other hand are alive and kicking in the tournament and they will continue to pile the pressure on France who are leading the way.

Ireland’s ferocious attack will once again be managed by Joey Carbery who starts at outhalf. Ireland captain Johnny Sexton will have to make do with a place on the bench after returning from injury, but I’m sure he will be itching to get on and get some game time under his belt after missing out last week.

Mike Lowry makes his international debut at full-back, and anyone who has watched him play for Ulster this season will know how good his form currently is. He is like a lightning bolt in a bottle, so evasive and explosive. Watching him in full flight is worth the ticket money alone.

Ryan Baird starts in the second row alongside Tadhg Beirne, and Peter O’Mahony will give that line-out reassurance if needed from the back row. James Lowe starts on the wing after an incredible returning performance last week for Leinster. Having Lowe, Mack Hansen and Lowry in the back three will cause any team in world rugby problems. I just hope they get plenty of ball in hand,and exploit this somewhat porous Italian defence that we have all witnessed so far in the championship.

A few other lads have been brought onto the Irish bench from the wilderness. Hopefully, they can make an impact when called upon. Ireland have the stronger team and they should have a healthy score on the board come the final whistle.

Prediction: Ireland to win and a points margin of 31-40 points at 11/4

First try scorer: James Lowe is short enough odds at 6/1. What a story it would be for Mike Lowry on his debut to cross over first at 14/1



Warren Barner