Schmidt freshens things up

09 February 2018 03:40:59 EST

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has admitted that tiredness was a factor in his decision to make four changes to his side for the Six Nations match against Italy.

Ireland were involved in a brutal encounter last weekend in Paris, eventually edging past France in added time thanks to Johnny Sexton's drop goal.

All four changes come in the forwards, with Jack McGrath replacing Cian Healy in the front row. Devin Toner and Dan Leavy come in at second row and flanker, while Jack Conan starts at No.8, with CJ Stander dropping to the bench.

Schmidt said: "These Six Nations games do become, if nothing else, mentally attritional.

"By the time we got back from Paris on Sunday evening, you had some fairly sore, tired bodies and it's just an opportunity to freshen the side up a little bit."

Ireland are 6/5 to win the Six Nations outright and 11/4 to complete the Grand Slam.

Ireland team to play Italy: Rob Kearney (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), Jacob Stockdale, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray (Munster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Dan Leavy (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), Quinn Roux (Connacht), CJ Stander (Munster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Joey Carbery (Leinster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster).

Meanwhile, Conor O'Shea has made three changes to his Italy team for the game following their opening weekend loss to England.

Braam Steyn comes into the back row in place of Renato Giammarioli, while Nicola Quaglio and Luca Bigi will start in the front row.

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