Italy travel to Dublin to take on the might of Ireland in the Six Nations on Sunday afternoon – Jon Newcombe previews the action.
2pts Italy over 12.5 points at 20/23 (Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook)
Both teams took plenty of positives from their round one performances with a record number of points scored against their respective opponents and it’s likely that the scoreboard will move along nicely again in Dublin.
Italy managed 24 points against England, including three tries, while the 38 points Ireland put on France beat the record they’d set 12 months before. And with the game being played on Sunday, which is forecast to be the best day of the weekend weather-wise, we shouldn’t be short of ‘red-zone’ action.
Ireland have clocked up a half-century of points in each of their last four home games against Italy, who average 14 points in that period, so it’s stacking up nicely for the game to be in and around the 60-point mark.
As we saw from the World Cup, when up against quality opposition Italy are prone to the odd nightmare scoreline, and while blow-outs on the scale of the All Blacks and France games a few months ago won’t be repeated, Ireland should win with ease, just maybe not by enough to beat the handicap line of 35.5 points.
It’ll be interesting to see how badly the Azzurri miss their two big ball carriers now that Lorenzo Cannone has joined Seb Negri on a lengthening injury list.
If Italy struggle for territory and possession for a second weekend, Ireland will put them under a lot more pressure than England did. It was only later on in the piece that captain Michele Lamaro had to take matters into his own hands and illegally collapse an England maul, an act which cost him a yellow card, whereas Ireland were relentless from the off against Les Bleus with wave after wave of attack giving France no chance to breathe.
In fact, both captains were sent to the sin-bin in round one, Peter O’Mahony spending 10 minutes on the sidelines in Lyon. The chances are that Ireland won’t suffer the same fate against Italy as they have kept all 15 players on the field in the last four fixtures. Italy, though, have lost men to the sin-bin in three of the last four meetings with Ireland and they can ill afford to defend short-handed against the best attacking team in the competition.
The Azzurri’s attacking pattern mirrors that of Ireland’s in many ways, especially with the amount of pull-back passes and decoy runners used, and while it would be unkind to say it’s a pale imitation, for every try that Italy manage – and we expect them to get a couple – Ireland should double or treble up. That said, Italy should get enough opportunities to go over 12.5 points as you’d expect Tommaso Allan to get at least nail a couple of penalties in addition to an Azzurri try or two.
With the amount of big names Italy are missing and the form Ireland are in as they chase an unprecedented second consecutive Six Nations Grand Slam, it is tempting to go for Ireland to pass 47.5 points but it is definitely not a given, and the same can be said for a lot of the markets in this match where it’s perhaps best to keep your powder dry.
If you do want some interest in the game, though, Italy over 12.5 points would be our recommendation.
Posted at 1155 GMT on 09/02/24
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