The simple overview is that it was job done against the Italians as Ireland now sit two from two before Wales arrive on these shores.

A more detailed examination would show that at times Ireland were ruthlessly clinical and looked very sharp in attack in wrapping up the bonus point before the break, and pushed the lead to 42-0 after Rory Best's try was converted early in the second half.

The flip side however was the concession of three tries (no previous Italian side has ever left Dublin with 19 points) and some worrying defensive lapses.

Such was the feeble Italian resistance in the opening 40 minutes, that it would be difficult to read too much into the Irish performances, but notwithstanding, there is plenty for Joe Schmidt and his management team to mull over before the third outing of the competition


Port ready for Welsh storm?

Andrew Porter was probably guessing he would get his first taste of Six Nations action in the second half as Ireland would grind the Italian challenge down, but Tadhg Furlong’s fourth minute injury (more of that later) saw the former St Andrew’s student into the game much earlier than anticipated.

Porter's first touch of the ball
A five-metre carry

Porter was involved in the game immediately, quickly getting his hands on the ball on his way to making 13 carries in the contest.

His 11th minute close-in carry, and excellent ball presentation - a prerequisite in the Schmidt camp - was evident in the lead-up to Ireland's opening try

Murray gets the ball out to Robbie Henshaw for Ireland's first try

The Italian scrum is shorn some of the grizzly front row characters of previous years such as Martin Castrogiovanni and Salvatore Perugini, but Porter more than held his own at this level and grabbed every opportunity that presented itself in the loose.

Furlong's hamstring injury isn't as bad as initially feared and early medical reports from the IRFU suggest he will be available to face the Welsh, but Porter can be pleased with his outing and preparing for a huge step-up if called upon in less than a fortnight. 


With callow James Ryan packing down alongside Iain Henderson in Paris, Peter O’Mahony was the go-to man at the lineout, leading the way with six takes. This time around Joe Schmidt drafted Devin Toner back into the team on Saturday, lessening the burden on the Munster captain at the set-piece. 

Toner stole an early throw and called the throw near the Italian line that lead to Bundee Aki going over for the third try.

Toner pinches an early Italian lineout

Conor Murray too got in on the lineout jumping, transferring the provincial trick to the Test arena, but it was Toner who was the a common target for captain Rory Best, with the Leinster lock claiming eight throws, with O'Mahony next in line with three. 

One blot was a fumbled pass as the men in green squandered a good try scoring opportunity in the first half, but Toner's play at set-piece and as a defensive cog is what has made him a regular under Schmidt's watch.

Ryan was one of Ireland’s brightest performers against France and the head coach now has an interesting call to make against the Welsh - keep faith with the lineout engineer, or revert back to the more rangy and athletic Ryan?

Sharper attack

Much of the talk in the build-up to the game was of a blunt Irish attack, and while the Azzurri missed 27 tackles in a shaky defensive showing, there was certainly more intent and a cutting thrust in the opening 40 minutes as Ireland wrapped up the bonus point before the break.

The restarts too showed that Ireland were looking to attack the visitors at every opportunity. While in Paris territory was the number one aim, all four of the Italian first-half restarts were gathered by Keith Earls and all four were run down the throat of the Italian defence.

Earls didn't kick any of Italy's first-half restarts

Ireland didn't always hit their straps on an attacking sense, but Conor Murray's try was a well crafted score that identified where Italy were out-numbered and saw fantastic running lines, support play and passing with  Murray, Dan Leavy, Earls, Jacob Stockdale and Jack Conan all combining for the second try of the game.

Conor Murray receives the ball back from Dan Leavy 
Iain Henderson makes a dummy run and Keith Earls is fed the ball
Earls slips the ball to Stockdale outside him who immediately pops the ball to Conan on the wing
Conan veers inward allowing Murray space on the outside
Murray races in to finish off a flowing move

Ireland continued to press home their advantage after the break when it appeared the record books were going to be rewritten. Stockdale's first try, to push Ireland out to 47 points, had all the hallmarks of a well-run training move.

Kieran Marmion finds Devin Toner from the ruck
With the Italian line shooting up, Toner pops the ball back to Joey Carbery
Carbery draws in the defender, which opens up a hole in the Italian defence
Stockdale sprints through the gap to touch down

Points difference

The St. Patrick’s Day showdown between England and Ireland has been billed as a Grand Slam decider, but with a few more possible twists and turns before that, it could even transpire that the title will come down to points difference.

As things stand, Ireland are currently +39, two points ahead of England, but were it not for Keith Earls’ try-saving tackle with the clock in the red, it would be Eddie Jones’ side topping the standings going into the first rest weekend of the competition.

Joey Carbery will thank his team-mate more than most after throwing the intercept pass and the Irish winger chased 70m downfield to hunt down Mattia Bellini to prevent the breakaway score and drew one of the largest cheers of the afternoon.

Joey Carbery's loose pass is snaffled by Mattia Bellini
Bellina races downfield with Keith Earls infield
The Irish winger gains ground before the halfway line
Bellina attempts a hand-off just short of the Irish 22
A text book tackle from Earls to halt the Italian winger
Bellina can't manager the offload and is ground by Earls


Midfield break-up

The confirmation that Henshaw will play no further part in the Championship is a huge blow to Ireland. The glue in midfield, so much of the gameplan is predicated on his ability to snuff out danger, get over the gainline and bring others into play. Only Stockdale made more than his 89 metres on Saturday.

His understanding with Bundee Aki in particular has been growing steadily. Paris afforded the pair the chance to display their robustness in defence, while against the Italians, the interplay between the pair was beginning to blossom.

Bundee Aki runs a hard line to take the ball from Conor Murray
Robbie Henshaw runs a deep line behind his midfield partner
Aki plays the ball back inside to Sexton who immediately transfers the ball to Henshaw
Henshaw bursts through the Italian defensive line

Garry Ringrose is battling his way back to fitness and would be a welcome replacement, but should he fail to make it, Chris Farrell looks the most likely to take the 13 jersey.

The bustling Munster centre won't be found wanting defensively, but isn't as creative a force as Henshaw or Ringrose, and more onus will be placed on Aki to provide go-forward ball.

Albeit against a generous defence, the Connacht man showed he too has an eye for a break with a key role in the fourth try shortly before the interval.

Bundee Aki receives the ball in midfield
Tommaso Boni shoots out of the line and creates space between himself and hooker Luca Bigi (2)
Aki evades the challengers before sending Keith Earls through to seal the bonus point.

Defensive lapses

Against a side of Italy's quality, perhaps the real barometer of a performance is in defence rather than attack. Italy's first score of the afternoon came five minutes shy of the hour mark, but in the 25 minutes that followed, racked up more points than they had ever achieved in 80 previously in Dublin.

When you consider that Ireland only conceded three tries in total during their Championship-winning seasons of 2014 and 2015, to gift the same tally to the Azzurri will ensure Andy Farrell has plenty to say in Athlone this week. A total of 25 errors is tally that would surely see the home side come unstuck next time out against Wales.

With Ireland enjoying 72pc of the first-half in Italian territory, the visitors had few opportunities to stretch the Irish defence, but almost slipped through but for a scrambling Jack McGrath tackle.

Tommaso Boni eyes a gap between Jack McGrath and Rory Best
McGrath lunges to eventually halt the Italian centre

Following that first-half warning, and after 55 minutes of mainly one-way traffic, the Italians did manage a linebreak in similar circumstances allowing Tommaso Allan to score. 

Tommaso Castello takes the ball in midfield and identifies space in midfield
Castello glides between Dan Leavy and Jacob Stockdale
The inside centre offloads to the onrushing Tommaso Allan

The second try saw debutant Jordan Larmour left flat-footed in defence by Matteo Minozzi (see below),  while a narrow defensive line saw the visitors spread the ball wide at pace allowing the eye-catching Minozzi to claim a well-deserved score five minutes from the end.

Matteo Minozzi side-steps Jordan Larmour

"All I can do is learn from the mistakes I made out there and just grow from them," Larmour reflected post-match. The Leinster youngster was full of energy as Ireland sought to add to the scoreboard, jinking his way past a number of opponents in Ireland's final attack of the game, and will take defensive learnings from the 35 minutes of action.

Such defensive lapses, both individual and collective, could spell disaster in the remaining fixtures if Schmidt's side struggle to add to the tries scored column. Since the Kiwi took over, Ireland are yet to score more than one try in a Six Nations game against England, and have mustered just a single try. in the last 160 minutes against Wales.

The Six Nations Championship can be difficult hunting ground for tries for all teams once you exclude the Italians, so gifted scores at the other end could prove catastrophic in the chase for silverware.


It has to be the injury to Henshaw, which put a real dampener on proceedings at the Aviva Stadium. The centre was administered oxygen as he left the field in a sling and will now play no further part in the Six Nations.

A hugely disappointing way to end his campaign with such pressing games looming on the horizon.