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Ireland on course to consign Italy to familiar fate in their bid to break new ground

02 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Ireland on course to consign Italy to familiar fate in their bid to break new ground

Ireland can secure their sixth World Cup quarter-final on Sunday against an Italian side for whom a last-eight spot still appears a distant dream

Ireland take on Italy on Sunday in a clash between two of the Rugby World Cup’s greatest underachievers – a tag which only one of the two sides looks set to shed at the 2015 tournament.

Having been kept at arms’ length by France and stumbled past Canada, nothing but a win will do for Italy if they are to keep their slim hopes of reaching a first ever World Cup quarter-final alive.

Such an outcome is unlikely given that they have beaten Ireland just once in 19 attempts since being welcomed into the Six Nations – although that victory did come as recently as 2013.

Ireland have won back-to-back Six Nations Championships since then however, and having made an impressive start to the tournament will pose an even tougher test than normal.

Captain Sergio Parisse is 7/2 to score at any time on his return from injury, and the talismanic number eight will at least provide Italy with some much-needed class and authority.

They will certainly need it against the team who racked up more points than any other in the first two rounds of fixtures, with Ireland 9/2 to secure another winning bonus point by scoring exactly four tries.

Having had a whole week to recover, Joe Schmidt has decided to shuffle his pack once again by making 11 changes to the side that routed Romania last weekend.

This includes a recall for Robbie Henshaw following his recovery from a hamstring injury, and as the only member of the Irish squad not to feature so far the centre is 14/1 to announce his return by scoring the first try.

He will be partnered in midfield by Keith Earls, who moves in from the wing where he scored two tries against Romania.

Having also notched a brace against Italy at the World Cup four years ago, the Munster man is 7/1 to score two or more on Sunday.

Tommy Bowe is also retained after impressing with two tries of his own last time out, and having scored the first against Romania is 7/1 to get the ball rolling against Italy.

Despite making considerable strides in the Six Nations since their introduction at the turn of the century, Italy have consistently struggled to bring that progress to bear at the World Cup – having finished third at each of the last three tournaments.

But while their relative failures in 2003 and 2007 were permissible having shared a pool with New Zealand on both occasions before narrowly missing out to Wales and Scotland respectively in the race for second spot, the fear is that they are getting further away from breaking the duck.

In 2011 they lost 32-6 to Australia and 36-6 to Ireland – the two pool qualifiers – and are 6/1 to lose by a margin of 26-30 points once again having already been comfortably beaten by the French.

With only a game against Romania to come, a defeat of any size would consign the Azzurri to a fourth successive middle-of-the-road campaign while confirming Ireland’s place in the last eight once more as they target a first ever semi-final.

In the battle to break new boundaries at the sport’s showpiece international tournament, these two countries currently appear to be worlds apart. 

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