Furlong and Henshaw injured in comfortable Ireland win
Furlong appeared in some discomfort when he limped off the field inside five minutes clutching at his leg, but the hosts quickly returned to the task at hand to inflict a tournament-record-equalling 14th consecutive loss on Italy.
Henshaw and Conor Murray both profited from excellent Jack McGrath passes to touch down, with Jonathan Sexton – the last-gasp drop-goal hero of the opening win over France – splitting the posts with each of the conversions.
A rout looked likely when Bundee Aki’s diagonal run took him over and Sexton stretched Ireland’s lead to 21 points with as many minutes gone.
Aki turned provider to set up Keith Earls for a bonus-point try in the closing stages of a one-sided first half, with Italy coach Conor Shea – who won 35 caps for Ireland – coming in for heavy punishment against his countrymen.
Another Henshaw try arrived soon after the restart when Sergio Parisse’s pass was cut out, but he hurt his arm in the process and had to go off as Ireland’s fitness worries mounted.
After captain Rory Best recorded his ninth international try, Italy finally got off the mark as Tommaso Allan went over despite suspicions of a forward pass, only for Jacob Stockdale to promptly restore order.
Parisse atoned for his error by setting up Edoardo Gori, with questions again raised over the crucial pass, and there was still time for another Stockdale score before Matteo Minozzi had the final say.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 10, 2018
The hosts were dealt an early blow as the influential Furlong was forced off injured, with Leinster’s Andrew Porter taking his place.
Ireland underlined their intent when Sexton opted against going for the posts with a presentable kicking opportunity and they managed to build up a head of steam after the fly-half found touch.
Following concerted pressure, Henshaw burst through the line and Sexton added the extras, with Italy looking much poorer than in last weekend’s 46-15 reverse to reigning champions England.
A superb interchange of passes on the left flank saw Ireland slice through their opponents once again in the 13th minute, Murray the beneficiary after collecting a reverse pass from McGrath.
The one-way traffic continued through Aki’s converted score and he laid on another try for Earls before the break.
It took just a few minutes of the second half for Ireland to increase their advantage, Henshaw intercepting Parisse’s pass before racing away to double his tally, falling heavily as he dotted down.
? @henshawrob sprints to score his second try of the match – but at a cost…
— NatWest 6 Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 10, 2018
Henshaw’s withdrawal afforded Jordan Larmour a maiden international outing and Ireland’s dominance continued, with Best grabbing a rare five-pointer, although Allan quickly responded in a brief moment of Italian resistance.
Stockdale’s late double came either side of Gori’s try and, despite Minozzi’s late effort, Ireland will be buoyant ahead of Wales’ visit to the Aviva Stadium next time out.
Joe Schmidt reveals extent of Furlong and Henshaw injuries