The countdown to the Rugby World Cup ramps up on Saturday when Ireland face Italy in their first warm-up match, live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.

Twenty weeks after completing a Six Nations Grand Slam at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland return to action at the Dublin venue as the battle to make Andy Farrell's World Cup squad intensifies.

Farrell must whittle his 42-player training squad down to 33 and those on the fringes have just three games to catch the eye, with further matches against England and Samoa to come.

Ireland are on a ten-game winning streak while they have won their last 13 matches against Italy, who began their World Cup preparations with a 25-13 defeat away to a Ben Healy-inspired Scotland last weekend.

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Ireland v Italy is live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player. Coverage begins at 7.30pm.

Listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra.

Follow a live blog on and the RTÉ News App followed by report and reaction from the Aviva Stadium.

A sunny evening is forecast in Dublin after a wet start to the weekend. Temperatures of around 15 degrees are expected come kick-off with moderate northwest winds.

Farrell has named an experimental line-up that includes just three players who started the Grand Slam-clinching win over England – Robbie Henshaw, Ryan Baird and Caelan Doris.

Jack Crowley is given the first opportunity to stake his claim for the back-up out-half spot behind Johnny Sexton. He partners Munster team-mate Craig Casey at half-back while Jacob Stockdale starts on the wing for his first Ireland appearance in over two years.

Iain Henderson, who captains Ireland for only the second time, is named alongside Joe McCarthy in the second row, with Jimmy O'Brien given the nod at full-back.

Tom Stewart is in line to make his Ireland debut from the bench

Keith Earls wins his 99th cap and while there is plenty of experience on the bench in the shape of Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong and Tadhg Beirne, there is also an uncapped trio in Tom Stewart, Ciarán Frawley and Calvin Nash.

Italy hand debuts to English-born pair Paolo Odogwu and Dino Lamb at wing and lock respectively.

Kieran Crowley has named a much stronger line-up compared to the one that was beaten in Edinburgh, with Paolo Garbisi back at out-half and Sebastian Negri bolstering the pack.

Ireland: Jimmy O'Brien; Keith Earls, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Jack Crowley, Craig Casey; Dave Kilcoyne, Rob Herring, Tom O'Toole; Iain Henderson (capt), Joe McCarthy; Ryan Baird, Caelan Doris, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Tom Stewart, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Cian Prendergast, Caolin Blade, Ciarán Frawley, Calvin Nash.

Italy: Tommaso Allan; Paolo Odogwu, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Monty Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Marco Riccioni; Dino Lamb, Federico Ruzza (capt); Sebastian Negri, Manuel Zuliani, Toa Halafihi.

Replacements: Luca Bigi, Paolo Buonfiglio, Simone Ferrari, Niccolo Cannone, Michele Lamaro, Lorenzo Cannone, Alessandro Fusco, Lorenzo Pani.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France).

Andy Farrell: "I wouldn't say we’re experimenting. You win World Cups because of the strength of your squad so we’re trying to find out about people that have done so well to get picked in the initial 42 and now they’ve got the opportunity to represent the group."

Kieran Crowley [Italy head coach]: "The match against Ireland will be a new, important test in preparation for the World Cup. Other players will have the chance to play a top-level international Test match facing the world’s first-ranked team. The focus will be on our performance."


Italy 20-34 Ireland – Stadio Olimpico, 2023 Six Nations

Ireland 57-6 Italy – Aviva Stadium, 2022 Six Nations

Italy 10-48 Ireland – Stadio Olimpico, 2021 Six Nations

Ireland 50-17 Italy – Aviva Stadium, 2020 Six Nations

Ireland 29-10 Italy – Aviva Stadium, 2019 Rugby World Cup warm-up

Ireland’s game with Italy is one of a host of World Cup warm-up matches taking place across both hemispheres on Saturday.

Ireland’s Pool B opponents Tonga are in action away to Samoa (3am Irish time) with New Zealand once again facing trans-Tasman rivals Australia in Dunedin (3.35am).

Japan, who beat Tonga last weekend, face Fiji in Tokyo (11.15am), with the Six Nations sides then taking centre stage as Scotland welcome France to Murrayfield (3.15pm) and Wales tackle England in Cardiff (5.30pm).

Romania, who Ireland face in their World Cup opener, play the United States in Bucharest (6pm), Uruguay are at home to Namibia (7pm), while Chile take on an Argentina XV (10pm).

A busy day concludes in Buenos Aires where the Argentina first team face world champions South Africa for the second time in eight days (8.10pm).

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Watch live coverage of Ireland v Italy this Saturday from 7.30pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra or follow a live blog on RTÉ.ie and the RTÉ News app.