Six Nations

Ireland regain confidence with Italy thrashing

Ireland belatedly claimed their first win of the 2016 Six Nations in emphatic fashion on Saturday, thrashing an abject Italy 58-15 in Dublin.

Joe Schmidt's side are already certain to be deposed as champions, having followed a draw against Wales in the opening round of matches with disappointing defeats at the hands of France and England.

However, there was no stopping Ireland on this occasion as they clinically punished Italy's painfully apparent shortcomings to deliver a perfect response to criticism of Schmidt's team selection.

Jamie Heaslip was responsible for two of Ireland's nine tries - his first a contender for the score of the tournament as the number eight rounded off a sensational move from deep in the hosts' own half.

An injury-hit Italy were hampered by the enforced exit of each of their starting locks - Marco Fuser and George Biagi - during the opening 40, but did little to help themselves on their way to a fourth defeat from as many matches.

Prop Lorenzo Cittadini was a late withdrawal from the visiting XV and Italy suffered another setback in the seventh minute when Leonardo Sarto and David Odiete failed to handle a kick through from Jonathan Sexton. Sarto patted the ball back beyond his team-mate and Jared Payne pounced before Ireland attacked down the blindside to score through Andrew Trimble.

That set the tone for a one-sided encounter and further tries came from Jack McGrath and CJ Stander, the flanker claiming his maiden international score, before Ireland finished the first half in stunning style.

Simon Zebo made the initial break from a Sexton pass and the ball was worked to the right flank and then back across the field through several pairs of hands prior to Heaslip finishing things off on the left.

Any hope of an Italy fightback disappeared three minutes after the break when a floated pass from fly-half Edoardo Padovani was intercepted by Payne, who went in under the posts.

Heaslip and Sean Cronin duly crossed to extend Ireland's healthy lead and replacement fly-half Ian Madigan also touched down either side of consolation scores from Odiete and Sarto.

Fittingly, it was Ireland who had the final word - Fergus McFadden strolling over to complete Italy's misery.


Key Opta Facts:

- Ireland have now won all nine Six Nations games against Italy in Dublin; only in their first meeting in 2000 did they record more than the 58 points they scored today (60).

- Ireland scored nine tries in this game, more than they have ever previously managed in a Five or Six Nations fixture.

- This 43-point win was Ireland's most convincing in the Six Nations since a 54-10 victory over Wales in 2002.