Caelan Doris stars for Ireland but injury concerns overshadow win over Italy

By Sports Desk August 05, 2023

Caelan Doris shone and Jack Conan suffered an injury scare as Ireland launched their World Cup warm-up fixtures by easing to a 33-17 win over Italy in Dublin.

Back-rower Conan departed the field shortly before half-time and was later pictured in a protective boot on the bench.

Full-back Jimmy O’Brien and scrum-half Craig Casey were also withdrawn for treatment to give head coach Andy Farrell cause for concern ahead of his side’s campaign in France, which kicks off in just five weeks’ time.

An experimental side missing a host of rested stars, in addition to suspended skipper Johnny Sexton, overcame a sloppy beginning to cruise to a 15th successive home victory.

Doris’ two tries, plus scores from Dave Kilcoyne, Stuart McCloskey and Cian Healy, earned victory, while Jack Crowley and debutant Ciaran Frawley kicked six and two points respectively.

Lorenzo Pani and Tommaso Menoncello claimed consolations for Italy but they never threatened to shock the Six Nations champions.

Ireland were back in action for the first time since clinching the Grand Slam against England in March.

Farrell retained only three of the players who began that day as part of an unfamiliar XV, while Italy included England-born debutants Paolo Odogwu and Dino Lamb in a strong selection.

The Aviva Stadium was far from full for the late kick-off and Ireland’s sluggish start, during which Tommaso Allan’s early penalty put the visitors ahead, initially did little to enhance the subdued atmosphere.

Italy lost Saracens prop Marco Riccioni to injury inside 10 minutes and that setback was quickly compounded by Kilcoyne burrowing over at the other end to register his first Test try since November 2014.

The score settled Ireland down to an extent and they capitalised on Italian indiscipline to stretch the scoreboard just before the half-hour mark.

Doris claimed the second try of the evening, crashing over wide on the right, moments after Azzurri loosehead Danilo Fischetti was sin-binned for failing to retreat.

Conan’s 35th-minute departure was an unwelcome sight for Farrell but the hosts’ performance continued to improve, with man-of-the-match Doris proving to be a real menace.

The Leinster man, selected in the unfamiliar position of openside flanker, produced a crushing tackle on Stephen Varney deep inside Italian territory to pave the way for McCloskey to power over.

Crowley landed his third conversion of the evening to make it 21-3 at the interval.

Farrell shuffled his pack slightly for the restart, introducing the uncapped Frawley at fly-half and pushing Crowley to full-back in place of the withdrawn O’Brien, who had received treatment on a shoulder issue.

A further change was required just four minutes later as scrum-half Casey followed Conan and O’Brien into the treatment room.

Italy, whose only Dublin success came in 1997, had struggled for territory in the opening period.

But, on the back of some cheap penalties conceded by Ireland, they reduced their deficit in the 51st minute when Pani was afforded yards of space on the right to charge forward and hold off the attempts of Jacob Stockdale.

Replacement prop Healy then celebrated moving level with Rory Best as Ireland’s third most-capped player on 124 appearances with his 12th international try.

Menoncello again reduced the arrears for Italy 12 minutes from time before the impressive Doris had the final say.

Following a week’s training camp in Portugal, Ireland move to matches against England and Samoa with plenty of positives but some fitness concerns.

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