Ivan Toney has been called up by England for this month's Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine, with Trent Alexander-Arnold missing out.

Toney was handed his first senior call-up ahead of Nations League fixtures against Italy and Germany in September, though the Brentford striker failed to get any minutes in those games and did not make England's World Cup squad despite his excellent form.

The 27-year-old scored in Brentford's 2-0 win over Southampton on Tuesday, taking his tally of Premier League goals this season to 16 – a total bettered only by Erling Haaland (28) and Harry Kane (20) – but his inclusion this time around comes as something of a surprise after he was charged with 262 alleged breaches of the Football Association's (FA) gambling rules.

Gareth Southgate, however, remains willing to select the striker as long as he is available to feature for his club. 

"The fact is he's available for his club, there hasn't been a trial or any judgement, so I don't know on what basis we wouldn't pick him," Southgate said after naming his squad on Thursday.

"He's playing really well, I like his presence in games and he deserves his opportunity."

Alexander-Arnold is among the most notable absentees, having attracted criticism for his performances in an underwhelming campaign for Liverpool.

With Reece James returning to the fold after missing the World Cup with a knee injury, Southgate believes selecting Alexander-Arnold – as well as fellow absentee Ben White – would have been wasteful.

"The three boys that are in as right-backs, we've got them ahead of those two [Alexander-Arnold and White]," Southgate said. "It's the hardest position to pick, it's always shifting around on form.

"Kyle [Walker] and [Kieran] Trippier were obviously the ones that played at the World Cup, and Reece, coming back, is another top player.

"In the past we've maybe taken more players in that position, but it's the stage of the season where you don't want to carry too many who are not going to play. All the players who haven't made the squad know the reasons why."

Raheem Sterling has also missed out but Southgate put his absence down to a muscle injury.

Asked whether Sterling would have made the squad if he was fully fit, Southgate responded: "Yeah, absolutely."

Conor Coady, who has lost his place in Everton's team under Sean Dyche, has been left out, with Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi coming in, while Harry Maguire has retained his place despite limited game time at Manchester United. 

Maguire's club-mate Jadon Sancho has not earned a recall, though in-form Marcus Rashford joins Toney and Harry Kane among England's striker options.

England travel to Naples to face Italy in a re-run of the Euro 2020 final next Thursday, before hosting Ukraine at Wembley Stadium three days later.

England squad: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal); Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City); Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Maddison (Leicester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham); Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford).

Warren Gatland saluted the "excellent" Rhys Webb after the Wales scrum-half marked his international return with a man-of-the-match display against Italy.

Starting in his first Test since October 2020 - and first Six Nations match for six years - Webb played an instrumental role as Gatland's side prevailed 29-17 in Rome to claim a welcome first win of this year's tournament.

The Ospreys scrum-half assisted two of Wales' four tries in their bonus-point victory. His clever kick bounced kindly for Rio Dyer to go over early on, before his quick burst paved the way for Taulupe Faletau to cross in the second half.

Gatland felt Webb "played outstandingly well" during an important triumph for the visitors, who would have slipped outside the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time with defeat at Stadio Olimpico.

"His decision-making was excellent, he didn't force anything and kept us on the front foot," the Wales coach told S4C.

"I thought we deserved to win and with the bonus point which was great. 

"There's still a massive amount of growth in this team in terms of them going forward. A lot of players will have learned a lot about themselves - it wasn't a bad Italian side.

"The second half wasn't as good as the first. It would be nice to be in the coaching box and think the game wasn't going down to the wire, but the boys scrambled well."

Flanker Jac Morgan added: "We've worked hard over the last few weeks, and it's nice to get the win."

Wales' campaign will conclude with a match against France in Paris next week.

Wales claimed a much-needed first victory of this year's Six Nations after seeing off Italy 29-17 in Rome.

Warren Gatland's side arrived at Stadio Olimpico having only scored three tries in the tournament, but Rio Dyer, Liam Williams and Taulupe Faletau all crossed as they also earned the bonus point.

The result brought welcome relief for Wales, who could have lost their top-10 status in the world rankings with defeat in what was the likely wooden spoon decider.

Meanwhile, Italy continued their dismal record on home soil, where they have now suffered 25 successive defeats since beating Ireland 10 years ago.

Owen Williams kicked Wales in front and extended their lead to 10 points in the ninth minute when Rhys Webb's punt bounced fortuitously for Dyer to cross.

Tommaso Allan reduced the deficit but Liam Williams put the visitors back in control, the full-back evading five challenges before going over.

The hosts looked to respond and Juan Ignacio Brex was just unable to ground after a brilliant break from Paolo Garbisi. 

Wales subsequently pulled further clear as they were awarded a penalty try when Lorenzo Cannone collapsed the maul after Ken Owens drove his side over the line.

Despite the numerical disadvantage after Cannone was sin-binned, Italy made a bright start to the second half with Sebastian Negri collecting Allan’s punt to touch down.

But their momentum was halted when Pierre Bruno was also sent to the bin for a dangerous challenge on Wyn Jones, the winger fortunate to escape a red card after narrowly avoiding contact to the head.

Wales capitalised with the extra man to secure the bonus point, Webb bursting away before offloading for Faletau to go over. 

Italy had the final word, Brex crossing after a neat move but, despite a late rally, they could not deny their opponents victory.

Ireland travel to Scotland with their Grand Slam fate in their own hands in the penultimate round of Six Nations action, while Wales and Italy battle it out in a possible wooden spoon clash in Rome.

Andy Farrell's Ireland have defeated Wales, France and Italy in this year's edition – each secured with a bonus point – and are now two wins away from completing a clean sweep for a third time in the six team format.

Scotland, beaten by reigning champions France last time out, can get their own championship hopes back on track with victory over the leaders at Murrayfield in Sunday's standalone fixture.

That comes a day after Wales lock horns with Italy at Stadio Olimpico seeking their first victory since Warren Gatland returned as head coach. The Azzurri are themselves winless this tournament, but they are above Wales by virtue of collecting a losing bonus point.

England and France face off in this weekend's other fixture locked on 10 points apiece, with the winner still having a shot of finishing top of the pile heading into the final weekend of action.

Stats Perform previews the three games with the help of some standout Opta data.


ITALY V WALES 

FORM

Italy have finished bottom of the standings seven years running, but there is real hope of stopping the rot at Wales' expense.

Kieran Crowley's side won their most recent meeting with Wales, coming out on top 22-21 in Cardiff last year to snap a seven-year winless sequence in the tournament.

However, they have not beaten Wales at home since 2007 and are winless on their own patch in the competition in 24 outings since defeating Ireland in March 2013.

Gatland has again shuffled his pack in the hope of ending Wales' six-match losing run in the Six Nations – their worst run since losing seven on the spin between 2002 and 2003.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Ange Capuozzo was Player of the Match in this fixture last year, but he will miss Italy's remaining two matches through injury.

That opens a space for Harlequins fly-half Tommaso Allan, who ranked second for passes across Italy's first two games prior to being overlooked against Ireland.

Gatland has made six changes from the loss to England, with Rhys Webb coming into the side for his first Six Nations start since 2017.

Experienced figure Webb is back in the number nine jersey with a point to prove and a chance to hold down a place in the side ahead of the Rugby World Cup.


ENGLAND V FRANCE

FORM

England have defeated Wales and Italy, both by margins of 10-plus points, since losing to Scotland in Steve Borthwick's first game in charge.

The Red Rose are seeking a third straight win in the championship for the first time since 2020, while not since 2009-2010 have they won three in a row by double-figure margins.

France tasted defeat in their most recent away outing, going down 32-19 in a pivotal showdown with Ireland, but they have won their seven Six Nations games either side of that.

However, the home team on the day has won each of the past six tournament meetings between these sides, with France's most recent victory at Twickenham coming in 2005.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Borthwick has made a big decision in leaving out captain Owen Farrell – the first time he has been dropped for England since the 2015 World Cup – with Marcus Smith recalled.

Smith starred for Harlequins in their rout of Exeter last weekend after being released by Borthwick and he will be looking to transfer that club form onto the international stage.

Jonathan Danty comes in for his first start of the tournament for France as one of three changes, but it is Thibaud Flament who will have England's attention.

The 25-year-old, who has previously spent time living in England, has made the most tackles of any player in this year's Six Nations with 58 to his name.


SCOTLAND V IRELAND

FORM

Ireland have lived up to their pre-tournament favourites tag with three wins from three in 2023, while going further back they have won 10 of their past 11 Six Nations games.

Farrell's side have also won each of their last five games at Murrayfield, preventing their opponents from scoring more than one try in four of those five victories.

But Scotland have performed well this year, the only blemish coming in defeat to France last time out, and they have won three of their past four home games in the tournament.

Ireland may have had the better of this fixture in recent times, but seven of the last eight matches between the sides in Edinburgh have been decided by single-figure margins.

ONES TO WATCH

Stuart Hogg has been handed another start in a Scotland side showing two changes – Jonny Gray and Jack Dempsey coming in – for what will be his 100th Test appearance.

That makes the full-back, who is also his country's record try-scorer, one of four men to reach triple figures in a Scotland shirt after Ross Ford, Chris Paterson and Sean Lamont.

It could also be a milestone day for Johnny Sexton, who has recovered from a knock to return to an Ireland side that also contains fit-again Garry Ringrose and Tadhg Furlong.

Ireland captain Sexton requires eight points to overtake former team-mate Ronan O'Gara (557) as the top scorer in the history of the Six Nations.

Warren Gatland told Wales to "be brave" as he made six changes to his starting XV for Saturday's Six Nations tussle with fellow strugglers Italy.

The match in Rome, a likely Wooden Spoon decider, will see Rhys Webb make his first Test start since October 2020, stepping in at scrum-half to replace Tomos Williams.

Rio Dyer replaces wing Louis Rees-Zammit, who Gatland backed to be a useful impact replacement, with full-back Liam Williams also coming in.

Dafydd Jenkins, Jac Morgan and Wyn Jones come into the pack, with former captain Alun Wyn Jones among those missing out.

After defeats to Ireland, Scotland and England, head coach Gatland is determined Wales give a better account of themselves against the Azzurri at Stadio Olimpico.

Gatland said: "We feel that having watched Italy and how they'll tend to play from everywhere, including their own 22, getting guys on the ball is going to be pretty important.

"We've been disappointed with the results so far and for me it's hard to take as it's the first time I've lost three games in the Six Nations with Wales. We've had a lot of things going on off the field as well, but there are no excuses.

"The message to the players has been that we have to be smart in terms of the way we play, but we've also got to be brave and make sure that when the opportunities are on we shift the ball. We have to keep scanning and looking at options and if there's a chance to move the ball then be brave and do that."

Teams:

Italy: Tommaso Allan, Edoardo Padovani, Juan Ignacio Brex,Tommaso Menoncello, Pierre Bruno, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari, Niccolo Cannon, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro (captain), Lorenzo Cannon.

Replacements: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Marco Riccioni, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani, Alessandro Fusco, Luca Morisi.

Wales: Liam Williams, Josh Adams, Mason Grady, Joe Hawkins, Rio Dyer, Owen Williams, Rhys Webb; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (captain), Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Dafydd Jenkins, Jac Morgan, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Rhys Davies, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, George North, Louis Rees-Zammit.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has conceded his side have "serious problems" in attack ahead of the Euro 2024 qualifiers that start later this month. 

The Azzurri are the defending European champions, having beaten England on penalties at Wembley in the Euro 2020 final. 

Mancini's men have been drawn in Group C with England again in qualifying, alongside Malta, Ukraine and North Macedonia – who they lost to in the World Cup play-offs.

Italy will be desperate to make up for the disappointment of not reaching Qatar 2022 and begin their latest campaign at home to England on March 23 before travelling to Malta three days later. 

Speaking to Il Messaggero ahead of the international break, however, Mancini acknowledged concern over his side's attacking options. 

He said: "The problems are serious. [Ciro] Immobile is out, perhaps [Giacomo] Raspadori, too. There are big questions.

"Most of our centre-forwards have played very little in recent months. We don't have one who is a starter, except for [Wilfried] Gnonto, who is used a little wider at Leeds and can act as a centre-forward.

"But otherwise, we are in bad shape: even [Gianluca] Scamacca is recovering from an injury, [Andrea] Belotti plays little.

"There are solutions in defence and in midfield. It's there in attack that we have problems but not because there aren't any talents. They have to play, and they don't play."

One option for Mancini could be to recall former Roma forward Nicolo Zaniolo, who joined Galatasaray on a permanent deal in February. 

There's also the possibility of a first call-up for Andrea Compagno, who has scored 16 times this season in Romania's Liga I.

These fixtures will mark Italy's first games since the death of Gianluca Vialli, a member of their coaching staff and a very close friend of Mancini.

"They will be difficult days," Mancini said. "The great emptiness that I feel every day we will feel stronger. All that he left us must be useful for our present and our future."

Italy have not played since November 20 last year when they lost 2-0 to Austria in a friendly. 

Andy Farrell was relieved Ireland "found a way" to overcome an impressive Italy side as his team stayed on course for a Grand Slam by winning 34-20 in Rome.

Mack Hansen crossed for two tries, including a late clincher to end Italian hopes, with James Ryan, Hugo Keenan and Bundee Aki also going over as the visitors picked up a bonus point.

It means Ireland are three-fifths of the way to a clean sweep in this season's Six Nations, with Scotland away in a fortnight's time followed by England coming to Dublin.

Head coach Farrell could not be sure his team would survive unscathed against Italy until the closing stages, and he gave the hosts plenty of credit for that.

Farrell said: "I suppose the positive is the chances we did create, but the negative is we didn't take them all.

"What was it, four or five tries we left out there? But all credit must go to Italy, that was a proper Test match, that was tough, they're a proper side.

"Everyone can see the progression, but when you're here and you're facing it... they were tough, they were resilient, and the forwards gave us absolutely nothing.

"Defending their own line they were very physical, and in attack they were cutting us open from time to time, so congratulations to them, I thought they were great.

"We let them into the game through lack of discipline at times and didn't control the game as well as we should do in that regard.

"But Test match rugby doesn't go your way the whole time, and we found a way, even though we threw away four or five tries. It's nice the bonus-point win away from home."

Scotland, who tackle France on Sunday in Paris, have also begun this championship with successive wins.

It could, depending on Scotland's performance this weekend, be a clash between two unbeaten sides in Edinburgh on March 12.

"Going to Murrayfield is a really tough place to go," said Farrell, "as is here in Rome."

Ireland kept their Six Nations Grand Slam charge on track after a 34-20 victory over a spirited Italy in Rome.

Mack Hansen crossed twice while stand-in captain James Ryan, Hugo Keenan and Bundee Aki also went over at Stadio Olimpico for Andy Farrell's side, who recorded their third straight bonus-point win in this year’s tournament.

Although without the injured Johnny Sexton, the visitors registered their 23rd Six Nations win over Italy in 24 attempts – and 10th on the bounce.

Despite a determined display, the hosts continued their dismal record on home soil, where they have now suffered 24 successive defeats since beating Ireland 10 years ago.

Ireland came flying out the blocks, and although TMO denied James Lowe the opening try after just 90 seconds, the Leinster wing soon turned provider for Ryan to cross.

Having pushed reigning champions France all the way in their Six Nations opener, Italy responded with Stephen Varney going over after a rapid burst from Lorenzo Cannone.

But the visitors soon established control. Keenan broke through and rode challenges to regain the lead, while a series of sharp offloads enabled Aki and Hansen to cross in the corners.

Italy gave themselves hope before the break as Pierre Bruno intercepted Aki's offload on halfway to dash for the line.

A tight second half ensued with the hosts drawing on all their defensive resolve to prevent Ireland from extending their advantage as Paolo Garbisi and Ross Byrne exchanged kicks.

But the visitors finally put the result beyond doubt nine minutes from time when a neat offload released Hansen, who made no mistake in claiming his second try.

Giorgio Chiellini feels "sad and hurt" by Juventus' points deduction that dented their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

The Bianconeri were punished for alleged irregularities regarding historic transfer dealings by having 15 points struck off their Serie A total in January, although the club intend to appeal.

Chiellini, who now plays for Major League Soccer side Los Angeles FC, was a part of the Juve team who were stripped of titles and relegated due to the Calciopoli scandal in 2006.

Massimiliano Allegri's side are seventh in Serie A, 12 points off the top four and Champions League qualification with 15 games remaining, though they are through to the Europa League last 16 after beating Nantes 4-1 on aggregate in the playoff round.

"For me, it's painful," Chiellini told The Athletic. "I feel sad and hurt by what's happening to Juventus. It's hard not to be in Turin, and it's not easy for everyone who loves the club. Now, the fans need to be patient because the club is fighting for everyone, and I hope everything finishes in the best way possible."

The 38-year-old former Juve and Italy defender revealed he barely watched any of the World Cup in Qatar, after the Azzurri failed to qualify.

"The World Cup was weird, to be honest," he said. "I didn't watch very much – it wasn't nice. I caught up on some of the highlights but almost never the live matches, outside of the final [Argentina v France] and the United States' first game against Wales, because I was still here for that.

"It was tough not to be there for it because going to the World Cup is a big goal. It would have been a great experience, but I try to change the bad things and look at them more positively. Failing at World Cup qualification meant I decided to come to Los Angeles for a new challenge, and it has been an unforgettable experience for me."

Chiellini made 13 appearances for LAFC after joining last season, helping them to win the MLS Cup, and he is starting to feel more at home since leaving his native Italy.

"After the Christmas holiday, I feel more settled, I understand the city better now," he said. "Los Angeles is so big. When I arrived, I didn’t quite understand what it was like to live here."

He added: "Leaving Italy and coming here has allowed me to discover many new cultures and a different way of life outside of football. I like it. I'm a curious guy, and I'm very lucky to have found an amazing club that has welcomed my family and me in the best way possible."

Ireland centre Garry Ringrose has been ruled out of their Six Nations trip to Italy after failing to overcome a calf injury in time.

Ringrose suffered the problem during their week two victory over holders France but was named in the starting XV for Saturday's game at Stadio Olimpico.

He has failed to overcome the issue however and has now been withdrawn, with Stuart McCloskey now in line to start and utility back Jimmy O'Brien elevated to the bench.

Andy Farrell will hope Ringrose recovers in time to take part in their final two games next month, against Scotland and England.

Ringrose had been in line to win his 50th cap for Ireland in this weekend's fixture and was looking to score on his third consecutive visit to Rome.

The centre has been a standout performer for Ireland in the Six Nations too, beating more defenders than any of his team-mates in the tournament so far, on eight occasions.

Ireland will be expected to stay in the hunt for a Grand Slam when they resume the Six Nations against Italy while Scotland's title credentials will face a stern test in Paris.

Andy Farrell's Ireland side showed why they are the top-ranked team in the world by halting France's long winning streak with a 32-19 victory at the Aviva Stadium before the break.

The leaders ought to make it three wins out of three at the expense of Italy at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday before third-placed England take on wounded Wales at the Principality Stadium.

Scotland followed up their win over England by hammering Wales and will be braced for a response from defending champions France in what should be an entertaining contest at Stade de France on Sunday.

Stats Perform previews the three tussles with the help of some standout Opta data.

 

ITALY v IRELAND

FORM

The Ireland juggernaut will take some stopping, with their winning run now at seven matches.

They have come out on top in 19 of their past 21 Tests, losing only to France and New Zealand last year in that period. Farrell's ruthless men have averaged 4.4 tries per game in those 21 matches.

In his 32 Tests in charge, Farrell has a 78 per cent win rate – the best of any Ireland head coach to have been at the helm for two or more games.

Italy have lost each of their 23 home games in the Six Nations since beating Ireland in Rome in 2013. After almost pulling off a shock against France in the opening round, they suffered a 31-14 loss to England last time out.

ONES TO WATCH

Italy powerhouse Sebastian Negri has made 30 carries in the Six Nations this year, the joint-most along with Scotland playmaker Finn Russell. He must play a big part if the Azzurri are to trouble Ireland.

Garry Ringrose will win his 50th cap for Ireland. On the six occasions the centre has faced Italy, he has scored three tries – two of those coming in his past two trips to Rome. 

Ringrose has been more defenders than any other Ireland player in the tournament so far, doing so eight times.

WALES v ENGLAND

FORM

The start of Warren Gatland's second spell as Wales head coach has not gone to plan, losing twice and having to contend with a dispute over contracts that resulted in the threat of strike action from players this weekend.

Gatland has made nine changes after it was confirmed the game will go ahead in Cardiff, where Wales will attempt to avoid starting the tournament with three straight defeats for only the third time – having previously done so in 2003 and 2007.

England got their first win under head coach Steve Borthwick against Italy and will be looking to avoid a third successive away loss to Wales.

The Red Rose have won seven of their last nine meetings with Wales, though, with the previous six of those coming by a margin of no more than six points.

ONES TO WATCH

Gatland has dropped big names such as Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and George North after the heavy loss to Scotland.

Josh Adams is among the players who have retained his place, though, and the wing could help to lift the gloom. The flyer and Ken Owens have made four dominant tackles apiece in the tournament, with only seven players have produced that many. 

Alex Dombrandt will start at number eight once again for England, having made more effective contributions at defensive rucks than any other player in the Six Nations with seven. 

He has won two jackal turnovers and slowed down a further five rucks, so he can make his presence felt again.

FRANCE v SCOTLAND

FORM 

Scotland put on another show to see off Wales, turning on the style at a raucous Murrayfield after winning a thriller against England.

They won on their most recent visit to the French capital, defeating Les Bleus 27-23 in 2021. Scotland have not won back-to-back games in Paris since 1967-1969.

France have won 18 of their past 19 Test matches on home soil, including nine in a row. Their only loss during that time was that one at the hands of Scotland. 

A victory this weekend would give them a 10th straight home win for the first time since 1986-1989.

ONES TO WATCH

Damian Penaud finished superbly to score for France in their loss to Ireland. 

The wing has beaten 15 defenders in his two appearances in this tournament and another livewire display could be on the cards.

Russell produced a masterclass against Wales and Scotland will need him to pull the strings once again. 

The fly-half has made three line-break assists and also laid on three tries in the tournament so far and there should be more to come.

Craig Casey and Ross Byrne will make their first Six Nations starts for Ireland when they travel to Rome to face Italy on Saturday.

With Johnny Sexton out with a groin injury and Conor Murray dropped to the bench, Casey and Byrne will pair at half-back as coach Andy Farrell makes six changes to the team that beat France last time out.

Ronan Kelleher replaces Rob Herring at hooker, while Jack Conan comes in for Peter O'Mahony and Bundee Aki earns a start after coming off the bench in the first two games, replacing Stuart McCloskey.

Dan Sheehan is fit again and has been named among the replacements.

James Ryan will captain the side in Sexton's absence as Ireland look to make it three wins from three following victories against Wales and France.

Ireland have won 22 of their previous 23 matches against Italy in the Six Nations, including the last nine in a row, with their only defeat in that spell coming in Rome in 2013, which was the last time Italy won at home in the competition against anyone.

Italy have made three changes from the side that lost to England in their last game, with fly-half Paolo Garbisi back in for Tommaso Allan.

Coach Kieran Crowley has also recalled Pierre Bruno to the left wing, while Simone Ferrari is in for Marco Riccioni at tighthead prop.

 

Italy XV: Ange Capuozzo, Edoardo Padovani, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Pierre Bruno, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro (c), Lorenzo Cannone.

Replacements: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Marco Riccioni, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Alessandro Fusco, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Allan

Ireland XV: Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Craig Casey; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, James Ryan (c), Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O'Toole, Ryan Baird, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Stuart McCloskey.

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."

Italy's Jake Polledri will undergo shoulder surgery that is set to rule him out of the rest of the Six Nations, a week after his return against England.

The 27-year-old only made his first appearance for the Azzurri since November 2020 during his side's 31-14 defeat at Twickenham last Saturday.

A long-term lay-off with a knee ligament injury sustained against Scotland kept the forward out for over a year and a half, before his Gloucester form earned a recall this term.

Now, the Italian Rugby Federation has confirmed he will undergo surgery for a shoulder problem that was discovered after he was forced off for a HIA in the closing stages against England.

"Jake Polledri [had a] pain in his right shoulder which led to the discovery of an injury," read a federation statement.

"The examination he underwent revealed the involvement of the rotator cuff tendons. The specialist consultation carried out at his club recommended surgery.

"The prognosis of the injury sustained and the consequent duration of recovery will be evaluated based on the outcome of the scheduled surgery."

Italy have lost both of their opening Six Nations fixtures under coach Kieran Crowley this year, but came close to scoring a major upset in their opener against championship holders France.

Kieran Crowley's side will next face frontrunners Ireland at Rome's Stadio Olimpico next Saturday before another home clash with Wales as they continue to step up preparations ahead of this year's Rugby World Cup.

The Azzurri will compete in Pool A, alongside France, New Zealand, Uruguay and Namibia.

England boss Steve Borthwick believes his team took "a couple of steps forward" with their hard-fought win over Italy at Twickenham on Sunday.

After losing at home to Scotland in the first round of the Six Nations, England began to make amends by grinding out a 31-14 victory over the Azzurri.

It means England preserved their 100 per cent record against Italy in the championship, with this a 24th successive win in the one-sided rivalry, and it allowed England to reflect on a positive week on the training pitch.

Borthwick, who celebrated on the pitch with his young son Chase after the game, is still getting to grips with his new task, having been appointed in December to replace Eddie Jones. The players are also still learning what the former Leicester Tigers head coach wants from them.

"I think we took some steps forward and that's an important thing to recognise," Borthwick said.

"But there's plenty of areas to improve upon. I think we left some chances out there we should have taken. Our ball speed could have been a bit quicker, and we conceded a couple [of tries] that we wouldn't want to do.

"So there's always things to work upon, but ultimately it was a couple of steps forward."

Borthwick said England's ruck speed could have been quicker but spoke positively in general, as England move on to preparations for a trip to face bottom side Wales on February 25.

England had tries from Jack Willis, Ollie Chessum, Jamie George and Henry Arundell, plus a penalty try.

Rugby World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward, now working in the media, said the performance against Italy was "really workmanlike" in the first half, contending the team lost their shape after going to the interval with a 19-0 lead.

Lawrence Dallaglio, the former England captain who is also now a pundit, told ITV the performance was "miles off" what was seen on Saturday, when Ireland beat France in Dublin.

Dallaglio spoke of it being "a messy game", but he agreed there were "small steps forward" to offer cheer for England.

The current captain, Owen Farrell, took the same view, saying: "In terms of the performance, it felt better. I thought it was a step forward, as it would be a week on into our new journey.

"There's a lot to get better at, and we feel like there's loads more to go, but it's a step in the right direction.

"We're trying to look after each other, trying to build a togetherness on the pitch, fighting for each other for 80 minutes, and I think you've seen that for the past two games, and we were hopefully more on top of that this week."

Player of the match Ollie Lawrence spoke of both small steps and greater gains.

"We took a massive stride forward after last week," Lawrence said. "We're rebuilding as a team, and we're taking those small steps each week.

"The progression's getting there. We're nowhere near the finished product yet, but we're all believing in where we're going as a team. It just needs to get better and better, and we're pushing together."

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