Italy: Leading 7-3 at half-time against Wales in Round One, Italy were very much in the game up until the hour mark. It was only in the last quarter that their resolute, dogged defence started to tire under unrelenting pressure. Starved of territory and possession for long periods, Conor O’Shea’s side went on to concede 30 unanswered points. The 33-7 loss will have frustrated the Azzurri, and they won’t want two losses on the bounce in front of their own supporters.
Ireland: After beating New Zealand, South Africa and Australia in 2016, the one-score defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield was a surprise for one of the pre-tournament favourites. The 27-22 reverse blew their chances of a Grand Slam, but they could still win the Six Nations if they secure a bonus point victory in Rome before hosting France in Round Three.
Italy will need to improve their discipline if they are to beat Ireland - the sin-binning of prop Andrea Lovotti proved costly against Wales, conceding two tries in that ten-minute period. Coaching director Conor O’Shea will be demanding a full 80 minute performance this weekend, and they’ll be looking to make home advantage count before a tricky trip to Grand Slam-chasing England in Round Three. If you think they will just squeeze a victory against the odds, they’re a tempting 25/1 to win by 1-5 points.
Captain Sergio Parisse was at his inspirational best last weekend, alongside openside flanker Maxime Mata M’Banda who made a match-high 25 tackles. Packing down with Abraham Steyn, their tussle with the uncompromising Irish back-row will be one to look out for. The Italians will look to at least gain parity against a probable Irish loose-forward trio of CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip.
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland were lacklustre against Scotland, fighting their way back into the game after a slow start. Although they took the lead in the closing stages, they couldn’t hold on for victory. The likes of Johnny Sexton, Donncha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony and Andrew Trimble were unavailable for selection in Edinburgh, and it is hoped the inspirational Leinsterman Sexton will return to his fly-half role.
Their scrummage, led by emerging tighthead Tadhg Furlong, impressed against Scotland as they edged that set-piece battle, but with injury doubts over Furlong, Munster’s John Ryan could pack down alongside captain Rory Best. If so, the inexperienced Test prop may be a target for the gnarly Italian eight.
The men in green will be targeting a bonus point four-try victory, and although they may not achieve that feat, they understandably begin as favourites with the bookmakers. Ireland comfortably beat Italy in 58-15 in Round Four of last year’s Six Nations, outscoring their visitors nine tries to two, and you can find 3/1 from Ladbrokes on them winning with a handicap of 30 on Saturday. Jamie Heaslip got two that day, and punters should look out for the Leinster forward from the base of the Irish scrum this weekend, priced at 20/1 to bag the first try.
However, if you think it might be a little tighter this time around, you can get13/2 on an Irish win by 11-15 points, which seems like a great shout.
- Sports.net's Top Tip: Ireland to win by 11-15 points at 13/2
Odds may fluctuate before kick off.