Ireland's new combinations are a cause for optimism ahead of a must-win match against Italy.

That’s the opinion of Donal Lenihan, who expects to see more cutting edge as Andy Farrell’s side head to Rome hoping to avoid a fourth-successive Six Nations defeat.

The head coach has made seven changes to the side that was beaten by France two weeks ago.

Leinster utility back Jordan Larmour starts his first championship game of the season on the right wing, with provincial team-mate James Lowe retained on the opposite side.

The return to full fitness of erstwhile starters James Ryan and Iain Henderson means the in-form Tadhg Beirne moves to the flank, another move welcomed by the former Ireland and Lions manager.

"Ireland have to win, they’ll be expected to get a winning bonus point," he told RTÉ Sport.

"You go back four months and we put 50 points on them in the rearranged Six Nations fixture in the Aviva. 

"They’ve conceded 13 tries and 92 points in the championship to date.

"A lot of people will be looking at Ireland’s attack. We’ve only scored two tries, which is the lowest of all the teams.

"I like the team that Andy Farrell has selected, seven changes. He has rewarded the players that have made impacts off the bench in the opening two games.


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"He has also thrown down the gauntlet to certain players and I think there’s a great balance in the team.

"I’m thrilled to see the combination of James Ryan, Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne in the same pack with Beirne moving into the back row.

"We’ve seen what Jordan Larmour and James Lowe have done for Leinster, in terms of their ability from broken play and counter-attacking, that’s what we want to see from Ireland.

"Ireland are expected to win but there will be a lot of focus on the performance."

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