Six Nations

Best expecting Ireland improvement against Italy

Rory Best has challenged Ireland to finally put together a complete performance when Italy visit Dublin in the Six Nations on Saturday.

An injury-hit Ireland will be deposed as champions after collecting just one point from their first three matches - an opening-round draw with Wales having been followed by away defeats to France and England.

Skipper Best, who will become the seventh Ireland player to reach 50 Six Nations appearances this weekend, acknowledges his side have yet to deliver.

"When you set high standards you expect everyone to come up to them and you expect as a team to be there, and we haven't been there," Best told Irish Rugby TV on Friday.

"We've been there in bits and pieces in various games throughout the championship, but as a complete 80-minute performance we've been nowhere near the standards that we expect of ourselves.

"It's something that we've been looking long and hard at. There are a few areas especially that we're not happy with and hopefully we'll get those tightened up and that will make a big difference for us."

Uncapped Connacht prop Finlay Bealham has been promoted to Ireland's bench after Cian Healy was ruled out with a hamstring strain.

"Finlay so far in this championship has been going really well in training," added Best. "He's a really good kid and hopefully he'll get his first cap and go well."

Italy, the only team below Ireland in the Six Nations table, will field their third different fly-half in as many matches - Edoardo Padovani replacing Kelly Haimona in the number 10 jersey with Carlo Canna still unavailable through injury.

Josh Furno and Leonardo Ghiraldini have also been ruled out, but talismanic skipper Sergio Parisse is poised to equal the suspended Martin Castrogiovanni's record of 118 Italy caps.


Key Opta Facts:

- Ireland have won 15 of the 16 games played out between these sides, including all eight in Dublin.

- Ireland have won their eight home games against Italy in the Six Nations by an average margin of 23 points and only once have they failed to win by a double figure margin in Dublin (16-11 in 2008).

- Since beating Ireland in Rome in 2013, Italy have lost 12 of their last 13 games in the Six Nations - a 22-19 win over Scotland in Edinburgh the only success during that time.