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'Ireland are a different team with Johnny Sexton in it, and that's the reality'

By Josh Raisey
Jonathan Sexton shuffles the ball away without inviting contact in last month's unimpressive win over Italy (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Ireland will be hoping to make a statement this weekend in the Guinness Six Nations when they face Italy in Dublin after their dream of a Grand Slam was dashed against France.

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After topping the table in round one, Andy Farrell’s side slipped to third following a narrow loss to Les Bleus in Paris, but a strong win will put them back in the hunt for the title. Meanwhile, the visitors will want to arrest their 34-match losing streak in the Six Nations.

Ireland have also welcomed James Lowe back to their squad this week, as well as his uncapped Leinster teammate Jimmy O’Brien.

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Le French Rugby Podcast – Episode Episode 17
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When, where and how to watch the match
The match will kick-off at 15:00 (UK) on Sunday February 27th at the Aviva Stadium and will be broadcast live on ITV in the UK, Virgin Media in Ireland, Stan Sport in Australia and SuperSport in South Africa.

Head-to-head
It is nine years since Italy recorded their only win over Ireland in the Six Nations, and fourth overall, and are currently on an eleven-match losing streak to Sunday’s hosts. Ireland will be seeking to register their 30th win over the Azzurri in 35 meetings.

Match odds from bet365
bet365 have the handicap on Ireland at -38, and the first half handicap at -18. There are also 100/1 odds that Italy win the match by a margin of 1-5 points.

Six Nations Early Payout Offer with bet365*

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Single bets paid out as winners, if the team you back goes 15 points ahead – for multiple bets the selection will be marked as a winner.
Only available to new and eligible customers. Bet restrictions and T&Cs apply. 18+ BeGambleAware.org

Prediction
Former Ireland flanker Alan Quinlan gave his verdict on who he thinks should start out of Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery against the Italians on Off The Ball this week, while still talking up Ireland’s chances of winning the Championship.

“I just think with Johnny Sexton, what he does is better than what Joey Carbery does at the moment,” the 27-cap Irishman said.

“I just think Sexton’s experience and the type of player he is, the way he can really take physical exchanges and take the ball to the gainline and his execution of pass in that really pressurised situation is world class and that’s what has made his a world class player for a long, long period of time.

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“I think Ireland can still win the Championship. France have got to go to Scotland, they’ve got to go to Cardiff and they’ve got to play England in the last one. They’ve got to be really, really good for three games on the trot. They probably are capable of that, but I said it before the start of the tournament I didn’t think there would be a Grand Slam winner.

“I just think Ireland are a different team with Johnny Sexton in it, and that’s the reality.”

*Odds accurate as of 22/02/22.

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