Ryan to captain Ireland against Italy in Sexton's absence

By Sports Desk February 22, 2023

Ireland second row James Ryan will captain the side in the absence of Johnny Sexton when they face Italy in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Andy Farrell's team head to Rome looking to preserve their perfect start to this year's championship, having so far picked up wins over Wales and France.

Fly-half and regular skipper Sexton suffered a groin injury against Les Bleus in week two however and has been ruled out of the trip to Stadio Olimpico.

In his place, Leinster forward Ryan will take charge for the visitors, with the 26-year-old acknowledging he must live up to the responsibility.

"It's obviously a huge honour," he said. "It’s very cool. It’s a great moment for me and my family to captain my country this week. It still hasn’t sunk in.

"We've got a good group, a core leadership group that has been there for the last couple of years. I have big shoes to fill.

"Being named captain is a huge honour, but I've still got to bring the best version of myself."

Ireland are favourites to take the championship crown after defeating France last time out, with the world number one side looking to push on in a World Cup year.

A much-improved Italy are still winless in 2023, but Ryan expects a sterner test than in encounters gone by from the Azzurri.

"They are at home, so they will play with plenty of emotion," he added. 

"They are obviously an improved team, particularly in attack. They seem to be playing with a lot of ambition.

"They've got some genuinely world-class players there. They are a very dangerous side with ball in hand. They are also strong up front.

"We saw them drive the England pack back a few times, which is no easy task. I think it will be a big challenge for us."

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