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Andy Farrell makes six Ireland changes for Italy Six Nations clash in Rome: Ross Byrne, Craig Casey in for first championship starts

Ireland travel to face Italy for Round 3 of Six Nations on Saturday (2.15pm); Craig Casey and Ross Byrne start at half-back, with Johnny Sexton (groin) out, Conor Murray on bench; hooker Ronan Kelleher, lock Iain Henderson, No 8 Jack Conan, centre Bundee Aki all brought in to start

Craig casey
Image: Scrum-half Craig Casey will make his first Ireland Test start away to Italy on Saturday

Andy Farrell has made six changes to the Ireland Six Nations side to face Italy in Rome on Saturday, with half-backs Ross Byrne and Craig Casey in to make their first championship starts.

Byrne starts with skipper Johnny Sexton (groin) out injured, while Casey is named from the start with club team-mate Conor Murray dropping to the bench.

With Sexton absent, and back-row Peter O'Mahony dropping down to the bench, second-row James Ryan is named captain for the seventh time in his Test career.

19 November 2022; Ross Byrne of Ireland celebrates after kicking a penalty during the Bank of Ireland Nations Series match between Ireland and Australia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Image: Ross Byrne starts at fly-half for Ireland in place of Sexton for his first championship start

Other changes to the side see hooker Ronan Kelleher come in for Rob Herring (concussion), while Iain Henderson replaces the injury Tadhg Beirne (ankle) in the second-row.

Jed Holloway of Australia tackles James Ryan of Ireland
Image: James Ryan captains the Ireland side with Johnny Sexton out injured

The final change to the forward pack sees Jack Conan come into the back-row in place of O'Mahony, with Caelan Doris shifting to blindside flanker. Josh van der Flier remains at openside.

In the backline, Bundee Aki is named to start at inside-centre, with Stuart McCloskey dropping to the bench.

Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen and James Lowe remain as the back-three, with Garry Ringrose partnering Aki in midfield.

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On the bench, hooker Dan Sheehan makes a return after a hamstring injury, while lock Ryan Baird and fly-half Jack Crowley are added. Replacement props Dave Kilcoyne and Tom O'Toole complete the squad.

11 February 2023; Iain Henderson
Image: Iain Henderson has replaced the injured Tadhg Beirne in the second row for Ireland

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Craig Casey; 1 Andrew Porter, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 3 Finlay Bealham, 4 Iain Henderson, 5 James Ryan (c), 6 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 Jack Conan.

Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Tom O'Toole, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Peter O'Mahony, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Stuart McCloskey.

Playmaker Paolo Garbisi returns to Italy side

Italy head coach Kieran Crowley said on Thursday: "Every match has a different story.

"We will face Ireland aware of what we did against France and England with the aim of improving in some areas that will make us more competitive.

Italy's Paolo Garbisi
Image: Italy's Paolo Garbisi is fit again and starts at No 10

"It will be a tough game against the number one team in the world and we too can't wait to face them."

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Pierre Bruno, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney; 1 Danilo Fischetti, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 3 Simone Ferrari, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 5 Federico Ruzza, 6 Sebastian Negri, 7 Michele Lamaro (c), 8 Lorenzo Cannone.

Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Edoardo Iachizzi, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Alessandro Fusco, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Tomasso Allan

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