In his post-match interview following the defeat to France, Garry Ringrose twice said it was important that the players be honest with one another.

To look at the scoreline, 15-13, you can think there was a kick of a ball in it but it doesn't tell the whole story.

Thankfully, the centre told RTÉ Sport this week that their internal review looked past the scoreline. What they'll have admitted to themselves is that France should have been out of sight. 

But that was in a game that few outside the Ireland camp expected them to win. 

Les Bleus are building into a fine side and their first win in Dublin in 10 years was not a surprise result.

Today’s game, however, is a tie that Ireland are expected to win and win handsomely against a side looking to avoid a 30th straight Six Nations defeat.

Herein lies the problem.

Andy Farrell’s team can’t win, even with a win, because, of course, it’s only Italy, against whom Ireland have scored 50+ points in four of their last five clashes.

We need your consent to load this comcast-player contentWe use comcast-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Victory without a convincing performance will leave more questions than answers.

"Well, I suppose from the outside there’s always going to be that," said Farrell when asked about having little to gain from recording another victory in Rome.

"But like I keep on saying internally all that matters for us is making sure that we put in a performance that we’re proud of." 

Ireland have a awful trait of allowing relatively poor teams to disrupt and dictate for long passages in games. 

When the 2019 version beat Russia in the World Cup, they struggled for long periods and if you didn’t know in advance, you might have had difficulty identifying the part-timers.

Similarly, against Georgia, in last year’s Autumn Nations Cup win, a bizarre inertia infected the team and in the end, they only scored three points in the second half of a 23-10 win.

Two years ago in Rome, Italy led with half an hour to play and Joe Schmidt's side just about managed to scrape a bonus point.

That killer instinct is the difference between Ireland and the top teams. To be fair, Farrell's team did record a handsome 50-17 win over Italy last October, but there were still losses in concentration dotted throughout. 

So today’s game is about not giving a sucker an even break.

Progress, and something tangible to take into the Scotland game in Murrayfield in a fortnight’s time, is about treating this Azzurri side with the absolute minimum amount of respect necessary and playing with an anger that must surely have built up over the course of a frustrating campaign that sees them out of the running for honours and, added to the loss to France at the end of the last campaign, staring a fourth championship loss in a row. 

Farrell has recalled Jordan Larmour for his first start in a year, while captain Johnny Sexton also returns as one of seven personnel and one positional change to the side that lost last time out.

Scrum-half Conor Murray’s hamstring has not recovered sufficiently so Jamison Gibson-Park keeps his place in an all-Leinster backline.

You can be sure there is no provincial bias in the selection but it’s just the third time that Ireland have selected seven backs from province in Test history.

"In Leinster especially we have a very, very quiet group, just by nature," Sexton said this week when asked about how to improve communication from those who aren’t natural talkers, a concern highlighted by Farrell and Mike Catt recently.

"They are amazing players, all of them, the guys outside me, like world class at a lot of the basics and brilliant at their jobs and the next level for them is to try and improve that little bit of both communication and staying in the moment for longer, just not drifting when the ball is away from them." 

We can expect with Sexton marshalling the troops that there will be plenty of talk.

That Farrell has found a place for Tadhg Beirne on the flank, with James Ryan and Iain Henderson in the second row, is a nod to the Munster man’s form.

The 29-year-old is joint top of the rucks hit stats with 80, and he has arrived first at 39 of those, winning three defensive turnovers. The Kildare native’s instinct to be in the right place at the right time is invaluable, more so now with the new stricter breakdown interpretation.

There’s also a welcome start for prop Tadhg Furlong and a first Six Nations start for Ronán Kelleher at hooker.

Italy boss Franco Smith has named an unchanged side to the one beaten by England at Twickenham. The 41-18 scoreline flattered a stodgy-looking England, and while decent in patches, the visitors still weren’t within touching distance at the end. 

"Against Ireland we aim to show the same attitude we showed in the last match with the aim of taking another step forward in the growth path," says the South African, who continues to give youth a chance in the form of half-backs Stephen Varney (19) and Paolo Garbisi (20), who scored against Ireland last October. 

Italy’s miserable run has to end at some stage, unlikely as it is that they will be jettisoned for a team like Georgia. Rome is just too nice a capital.

"You hear some reports, and you look at a couple of scorelines you can make it out to be something that it's completely not," Farrell said when asked about their long-term place in the competition. 

"In the French game (50-10), I thought the French were very clinical. Italy tried to show their brand of rugby, like an expansive game etc. 

"I thought Italy certainly improved the week after. I thought the English found it tough for them to break down." 

There is a kick in this Italy team. It may well come today and still not be good enough to overturn a very pessimistic 22-point underdog tag.

Ireland can just about get away with the 'small margins’ narrative when they lose to heavyweights like France and England, and get squeezed out by Wales.

But in the event of a lucky victory or, God forbid, a defeat, that talk won't cut it. The honesty will have to lead to major change.  

Verdict: Ireland 

Italy: Jacopo Trulla, Luca Sperandio, Juan Ignacio Brex, Carlo Canna, Montanna Ioane, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Michele Lamaro, Andrea Lovotti, Luca Bigi (Capt), Marco Riccioni, Marco Lazzaroni, David Sisi, Sebastian Negri, Johan Meyer, Michele Lamaro. 

Replacements: Gianmarco Lucchesi, Cherif Traore, Giosuè Zilocchi, Niccolò Cannone, Maxime Mbanda, Callum Braley, Federico Mori, Mattia Bellini.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (Capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander 

Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Billy Burns, Keith Earls. 

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Follow Italy v Ireland (kick-off 2.15pm, Saturday) via our live blog on and the RTÉ News app or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport. Highlights on Against the Head on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, 8pm, Monday. 

Listen to the RTÉ Rugby podcast on Apple PodcastsSoundcloudSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts