Rugby

Caelen Doris Leads New Look Ireland Against Resurgent Azzurri In Dublin – FloRugby


Ireland’s head coach, Andy Farrell, has named 25-year-old backrow star Caelen Doris as captain for his team’s match with Italy on Sunday afternoon. 

Doris, who has become a fixture in the Irish line-up, will lead his nation for the first time as he becomes the 110th Irish Test captain. 

Kick-off will be at 3pm on February 11th at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. 

Team News

Starting their 2024 Guinness Six Nations title defence on the most impressive of notes with a 38 – 21 victory over France in Marseille, the men in green have made several changes for their match with the Italians. 

Absent this week are the experienced quartet of Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Bundee Aki and captain Peter O’Mahony. 

In their place come Finlay Bealham, James Ryan, Stuart McCloskey and Ryan Baird in the starting line-up. 

Lining up alongside Bealham in the front row are Andrew Porter and Dan Sheehan, who keep their places from round one, whilst James Ryan returns to the starting line-up at lock alongside Joe McCarthy. 

Completing the changes to the forward pack, Jack Conan will pack down alongside Doris and Baird in the backrow. 

Other changes see Craig Casey get a start at scrumhalf alongside his Munster teammate Jack Crowley, who will be looking to bring in the power game McCloskey and Robbie Henshaw in the centres. 

The only area that is unchanged from round one is the back three of James Lowe, Calvin Nash and Hugo Keenan.

Providing the backline cover are the trio of Jamison Gibson-Park and two more new faces, Harry Byrne and Jordan Larmour. 

On the bench, Jeremy Loughman replaces veteran Cian Healy as loosehead cover, whilst Tom O’Toole covers tighthead. Joining this duo is Ronan Kelleher, who once again covers hooker, and he is joined by the experienced duo of Iain Henderson and Josh van der Flier. 

Explaining the changes to his team, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell offered a squad injury update. 

“Pete’s got a bit of a calf injury. That shouldn’t take too long, but he’s not trained this week at all. 

“Exactly the same for Tadhg Furlong. He’s not trained at all, but we’ve got a couple of days of training next week, and they’d both be expected to be back for that, but this was too early. 

“Garry Ringrose (shoulder) is not quite right. Another week and he’s likely to be back into training as well next week. Bundee has got a rumbling knee that we can continue with this week, but it’s going to continue to rumble as well. 

“Stuart McCloskey has been going well in training so he deserves a chance, and hopefully Bundee will get fit and well in the meantime.” 

Looking to derail the green machine, Italy’s head coach Gonzalo Quesada has made a handful of changes to his team, which came up just short against England in round one. 

Missing through injury are the powerful backrow ball-carrying duo of Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone. Their absence sees captain Michele Lamaro move to the number eight berth and brings in the uber-dynamic Alessandro Izekor and the hard-hitting Manuel Zuliani. 

In the backline there are two changes with the electric Ange Capuozzo starting at fullback with Tommaso Allan dropping to the bench. 

At halfback the impressive Alessandro Garbisi is not involved in the match day 23 which sees Stephen Varney return to the starting line-up alongside Alessandro’s brother Paolo. 

Speaking ahead of the match, Quesada said, “I know what I want — not Gonzalo identity, Italian team identity, not just the way we play rugby. 

“I am Latin. Emotions are important for everyone, but especially in rugby. 

“When played in Italy, with Italian players, that heart, that passion, maybe fire it up a little bit and go back to those roots.” 

Meanwhile, despite dominating this fixture in recent years, Ireland back-row Jack Conan expects a tough challenge against Italy. 

“They’re a quality side. They really are,” he said. “You see that again, some of the tries they scored against England at the weekend, they’re more than capable of pulling off a few scalps, and I think you have the feeling that it’s coming, so there’s no easy games, and we’re under no illusions that this is going to be tough. 

“I know it was a massive win [against France] but Italy pose a completely different attacking picture and they will play from anywhere and take any opportunity, so it’s going to be a massive defensive challenge for us.” 

Key Battle 

Starting at the top, the battle between the two captains today is going to be a captivating one to say the least. 

Essentially swapping positions today with Caelen Doris starting at openside flanker and Michele Lamaro starting at number eight, the two players’ will be the heart of their respective teams. 

Doris is the key Ireland go-forward machine who is close to unstoppable in a one-on-one match-up, whilst Lamaro routinely comes up with big moments for his team. 

For Italy to slow down the quick Irish phase attack game, Lamaro and his teammates will need to target Doris every time he carries to stop him from getting the ball free for offloads and presenting a quick ruck ball. 

On the flip side, Doris is no stranger to smashing open rucks single-handidly and will likely be tasked with being Ireland’s chief turnover merchant. 

The captains’ back row compatriots will undoubtedly be crucial, with both sides opting for dynamic carriers across the board, yet the head-to-head between the two men will be worth the ticket price alone. 

Key Figures

*Key statistics per Opta sports* 

Ireland have won 23 of their previous 24 Six Nations matches against Italy (L1), including each of their last 10, and have won all 12 of their previous encounters in Dublin by an average margin of 29 points. 

Ireland have won each of their last 16 Test matches on home soil, their longest ever such run in men’s Test rugby, with Ireland scoring four tries or more in 12 of those 16 matches. 

Ireland has won each of their last nine games in the Six Nations, their longest-ever such run in the Five or Six Nations. In fact, only England (W11, 2015-17) have reached double figures for consecutive victories in the Championship since Italy joined in 2000 

Italy have won just one of their last 43 Six Nations matches (L42) and has lost each of their last six in the competition. However, each of the Azzurri’s last two Championship wins have come away from home (against Wales in 2022 and Scotland in 2015) 

Ireland and Italy each made six line breaks in the opening round of this year’s Six Nations, the joint-most of any of the teams, along with Wales. Italy also had the highest tackle evasion rate of any team last time out (22%) 

Italy (2.0) conceded fewer points per defensive 22 entry than any other side in the first round of the Six Nations, while Ireland scored more points per attacking 22 entry than any other team last weekend (4.2) 

Ireland (32%) and Italy (30%) moved the ball beyond the first receiver from a greater share of their attacking phases than any other teams last weekend. 

They were also the only two teams to attack the openside of the pitch from 90%+ of their attacking phases last weekend (Ireland – 91%, and Italy – 92%) 

Ireland’s Joe McCarthy crossed the gain line from a greater percentage of his carries than any other forward to carry on 5+ occasions last weekend (89%)

Italy’s Monty Ioane beat more defenders than any other player in the opening round of the Six Nations (6), while team-mate Tommaso Menocello beat over twice as many defenders as any other centre last time out (5) 

Prediction 

It is rare to see Farrell make so many changes to his starting line-up, however it is a clear indication that he is now supremely confident in his squad’s strength in depth. 

Farrell will, of course, be aware of the threat posed by the Azzurri, who at times tore England’s defence to shreds in Rome, but will back his team to believe in their highly effective system. 

There can be no doubting that Italy are a coming force and unrecognizable from the team that took to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, however this weekend’s match-up will be a step too far for them against one of the world’s best teams. The match will be tighter than many expect, but Ireland will ultimately pull away as the match goes on. Ireland by 15. 

Team Line-Ups

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Caelan Doris (c), 6 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter

Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jordan Larmour 

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro (c), 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Danilo Fischetti

Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, Andrea Zambonin, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori





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Ellis Wilder

Hey there! My name is Ellis Wilder, and I'm a student at the University of Calgary. When I'm not hitting the books, you can usually find me writing articles for sports and travel blogs. I've always had a passion for exploring new places and experiencing different cultures, so I love sharing my travel stories with others. Whether I'm hiking in the Rocky Mountains or exploring a new city, I always try to capture the essence of the places I visit in my writing. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy reading my articles as much as I enjoy writing them!

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