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WEATHER

Rain will clear eastwards during Saturday morning followed by sunny spells and scattered blustery showers. Highest temperatures of 10 to 12 degrees Celsius in fresh to strong south to southwest winds.

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The Guinness Six Nations restarts after an eight-month hiatus thanks to the coronavirus and it's Andy Farrell's championship contenders Ireland hosting Italy in what will be an empty Aviva Stadium to kick things off. 

The numerous Covid-related problems surrounding the latest Ireland soccer camp and the seemingly minute-by-minute breaking news on the GAA front certainly means that getting this game played without any major hiccups will be a victory in itself. 

Even the Ireland Women have not escaped the dreaded virus with  originally named starters Eimear Considine and Laura Feely ruled out of their Saturday night clash with Italy as a precaution

STATE OF PLAY

Ireland have their fate in their own hands, in as much as they can control what happens in Paris on Saturday week when they face France, who would be crowned champions with a five-point haul from that game, too. 

That said, ten points from tomorrow's game and against Les Bleus will give Farrell's side the championship. 

If neither side claim the bonus point win then England, who play Italy next weekend, would likely retain their prize. 

Ireland started well with wins over Scotland (19-12, lucky) and Wales (24-14, much better) before suffering defeat to England (24-12, chastening) in Twickenham. 

Italy have lost all three of their games to date, losing to France, Wales and Scotland.

Remaining fixtures

Sat 24 Oct
Ireland v Italy

Sat 31 Oct
Wales v Scotland
Italy v England
France v Ireland

TEAM NEWS

Farrell hands debuts to Leinster's Will Connors at openside, and provincial team-mate Hugo Keenan on the left wing. New Zealand-born Jamison Gibson-Park is set for his first start from the bench, as is Ed Byrne as replacement hooker. 

There is one major positional switch with injuries to Jordan Larmour and Will Addison allowing the head coach to stick Jacob Stockdale in at full-back

Paolo Garbisi, 20, will make his debut at out-half and coach Franco Smith has also included uncapped hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi and utility back Federico Mori on the bench. 

WHAT THEY SAID 

Andy Farrell 

"I hope that you see an energy in defence that is pretty ruthless. I hope that you see a dynamism in our contact skills that gets the ball back. I hope you see a set-piece that is one that is aggressive and going after them." 

Franco Smith

"The group has a very young average age and thanks to our two domestic teams, we can make a qualitative leap, but we must remember that Rome was not built in a day. This for us is a beginning and an opportunity to create our new culture, with an enlarged group that will form the basis for the future of the national team."

OFFICIALS

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)

Assistant 1: Luke Pearce (England)

Assistant 2: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

TMO: Tom Foley (England)