Dublin — Ireland were far too strong for Italy on Sunday, making it two Six Nations’ bonus point wins from two with a dominant 36-0 win at the Aviva Stadium that kept their hopes of defending their Grand Slam title firmly on track.
Andy Farrell made six changes from the team that swept aside France 38-17 a week ago and while it was not perfect, Ireland successfully flexed their squad depth and Italy simply could not cope with the host’s big ball carriers and fast-paced attack.
Two tries from Dan Sheehan and one apiece for Jack Crowley, Jack Conan, James Lowe and Calvin Nash put Ireland two points clear of England at the top of the standings and streets ahead of the competition in the form table.
“Our set piece was phenomenal again, it’s easy when you have platforms like that. Pleased with the result, but obviously a few things to work on going forward,” player of the match Lowe said.
Ireland’s intent was clear from the get go as they looked to move the ball as quickly as possible, creating gaps through the sheer speed of the phases with flyhalf Crowley crossing over for his first international try on eight minutes.
Ireland had to be patient as Italy found space of their own, just as they had in defeat by England last week. It was Crowley again with a sublime offload that led to hooker Sheehan scoring his fourth and later fifth try in his last three Six Nations games.
Elsewhere in a dominant pack, player of the match in Paris Joe McCarthy was immense at times in attack and defence again in just his seventh cap.
While Sheehan secured the bonus point on 50 minutes, Ireland did not quite manage to cut loose and had to settle for tries from James Lowe and Calvin Nash, even with Tommaso Menoncello sin binned, as the benches emptied and the game petered out.
The sight of fullback Hugo Keenan leaving the field gingerly in the second half — one of the few positions where Ireland lack notable depth — will be the one big concern as Ireland prepare to face Wales next in two weeks’ time.
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