Six Nations

Garbisi urges Italy to seize day against Ireland and avoid 30th straight loss

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Paolo Garbisi. (Six Nations - Twitter)
Paolo Garbisi. (Six Nations - Twitter)

Flyhalf Paolo Garbisi has urged Italy to seize the day on Saturday to end their Six Nations drought against an Irish side who have lost their opening two games.

"This could be the right opportunity to get back winning," insisted the 20-year-old. "They'll want to make a breakthrough, we're very focused."

Garbisi has been tipped as one of Italy's brightest hopes since his impressive senior debut against the Irish in the Six Nations in Dublin last October.

The young player knocked over an early penalty, and his slalom through the heart of the Irish defence in stoppage time for a try took the sting out of the 50-17 defeat, for a personal tally of 12 points.

The Azzurri host Andy Farrell's side in their third match, looking to avoid a record-extending 30th consecutive defeat in the tournament going back against Scotland in 2015.

Italy haven't beaten Ireland since the Six Nations in March 2013 in Rome.

This time the Irish arrive looking to avoid three opening losses for the first time since the 1998 Five Nations, when they ended up with the wooden spoon.

Italy's future in the tournament has been called into question having taken the wooden spoon 15 times since joining the expanded championship in 2000.

But Farrell is taking nothing for granted having made seven changes including an all-new front row after a 15-13 defeat by France followed a 21-16 loss to Wales.

"I certainly feel they are good enough to stay in the long term," said the Irish head coach.

"I can see the direction Franco (Smith) is taking them and it is the right one.

"It's a newish group and that takes some time but we are seeing the fruits of that already.

"They are strong but using new combinations takes time to gel and they will only get better."

'Wildest dreams'

Smith stuck with his starting line-up from the 41-18 defeat to England, having also lost 50-10 to France in Rome.

"Against Ireland we aim to show the same attitude as in the last match with the aim of taking another step forward," said Smith.

Garbisi, Marco Lazzaroni and captain Luca Bigi have become three stalwarts of the South African's side.

"In October I would not have expected to live weeks like this," said Garbisi who will don the number 10 jersey for the eighth time on Saturday.

He enjoyed a rapid rise in 2020, going from playing for junior club Petrarca to ending the year as Italy's flyhalf and goal-kicker after signing for Treviso in the first coronavirus lockdown.

"A lot of things have happened very quickly," continued the law student at Padua University of a year in which he exceeded "even my wildest dreams".

Garbisi said his points of reference are England rugby captain Owen Farrell and New Zealand legend Dan Carter.

"I would add Johnny Sexton," the Treviso player told Gazzetta Dello Sport.

"Playing against him impressed me for his ability to control and anticipate.

"(Sexton) is a fundamental player for the team and not just because he is their captain.

"His harmony with (Conor) Murray, then, is of the highest level."

Sexton returns after recovering from a head knock, but scrumhalf Murray remains out injured.

"Respecting the Italians, going over there with the right attitude, the right fight and the right want to play the game as it should be and having a clinical edge to back that up," added Sexton of the performance he was looking for in Rome.

Teams:

Ireland

15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tadhg Beirne, 6 Will Connors; 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Dave Kilcoyne

Substitutes: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Keith Earls

Italy

15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Monty Ioane; 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 David Sisi, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Luca Bigi (captain), 1 Andrea Lovotti

Substitutes: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Niccolo Cannone, 20 Maxime Mbanda, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Federico Mori, 23 Mattia Bellini

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