World Rugby

Caelen Doris Leads New-Look Ireland Against Resurgent Azzurri In Dublin

Caelen Doris Leads New-Look Ireland Against Resurgent Azzurri In Dublin

Ireland backrow Caelen Doris will captain the Ireland rugby team in its 2024 Guinness Six Nations match against Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Feb 10, 2024 by Philip Bendon
Caelen Doris Leads New-Look Ireland Against Resurgent Azzurri In Dublin

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named 25-year-old backrow Caelen Doris as captain for his team’s match with Italy on Sunday afternoon. 

Doris, who has become a fixture in the Irish lineup, will lead his nation for the first time, as he becomes the 110th Irish test captain. 

Kickoff at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin will be at 3 p.m. 

Team News

Starting their 2024 Guinness Six Nations title defense on the most impressive of notes - with a 38-21 victory over France in Marseille, the men in green have made several changes for their match with the Italians. 

Absent this week are the experienced quartet of Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Bundee Aki and captain Peter O’Mahony. 

In their place, come Finlay Bealham, James Ryan, Stuart McCloskey and Ryan Baird into the starting lineup. 

Lining up alongside Bealham in the front row are Andrew Porter and Dan Sheehan, who keep their places from Round 1, while James Ryan returns to the starting line-up at lock alongside Joe McCarthy. 

Completing the changes to the forward pack, Jack Conan will pack down alongside Doris and Baird in the back row. 

Other changes see Craig Casey get a start at scrumhalf alongside his Munster teammate Jack Crowley, who will be looking to bring in the power game with McCloskey and Robbie Henshaw in the centers. 

The only area that is unchanged from Round 1 is the back three of James Lowe, Calvin Nash and Hugo Keenan.

Providing the backline cover are the trio of Jamison Gibson-Park and two more new faces, Harry Byrne and Jordan Larmour. 

On the bench, Jeremy Loughman replaces veteran Cian Healy as loosehead cover, while Tom O’Toole covers tighthead. Joining this duo is Ronan Kelleher, who once again covers hooker, and he is joined by the experienced duo of Iain Henderson and Josh van der Flier. 

Explaining the changes to his team, Farrell offered an injury update. 

“Pete’s got a bit of a calf injury," Farrell said. "That shouldn’t take too long, but he’s not trained this week at all. 

“Exactly the same for Tadhg Furlong. He’s not trained at all, but we’ve got a couple of days of training next week, and they’d both be expected to be back for that, but this was too early. 

“Garry Ringrose (shoulder) is not quite right. Another week, and he’s likely to be back into training, as well. Bundee has got a rumbling knee that we can continue with this week, but it’s going to continue to rumble, as well. 

“Stuart McCloskey has been going well in training, so he deserves a chance, and hopefully Bundee will get fit and well in the meantime.” 

Looking to derail the green machine, Italy's head coach Gonzalo Quesada has made a handful of changes to his team, which came up just short against England in Round 1. 

Missing through injury are the powerful back-row ball-carrying duo of Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone. Their absence sees captain Michele Lamaro move to the No. 8 berth and brings in the uber-dynamic Alessandro Izekor and the hard-hitting Manuel Zuliani. 

In the backline, there are two changes with the electric Ange Capuozzo starting at fullback, with Tommaso Allan dropping to the bench. 

At halfback, the impressive Alessandro Garbisi is not involved in the matchday 23, which sees Stephen Varney return to the starting lineup alongside Alessandro’s brother Paolo. 

Speaking ahead of the match, Quesada said, “I know what I want — not Gonzalo identity, Italian team identity, not just the way we play rugby. 

“I am Latin. Emotions are important for everyone, but especially in rugby. 

“When played in Italy, with Italian players, that heart, that passion, maybe fire it up a little bit and go back to those roots.” 

Meanwhile, despite dominating this fixture in recent years, Ireland backrow Jack Conan expects a tough challenge against Italy. 

“They’re a quality side, they really are,” he said. “You see that again, some of the tries they scored against England at the weekend, they’re more than capable of pulling off a few scalps, and I think you have the feeling that it’s coming, so there’s no easy games, and we’re under no illusions that this is going to be tough. 

“I know it was a massive win [against France] but Italy poses a completely different attacking picture, and they will play from anywhere and take any opportunity, so it’s going to be a massive defensive challenge for us.” 

Key Battle 

Starting at the top, the battle between the two captains is going to be a captivating one, to say the least. 

Essentially swapping positions with Caelen Doris starting at openside flanker and Michele Lamaro starting at No. 8, the two players' will be the heart of their respective teams. 

Doris is the key Ireland go-forward machine who is close to unstoppable in a one-on-one matchup, while Lamaro routinely comes up with big moments for his team. 

For Italy to slow down the quick Irish phase attack game, Lamaro and his teammates will need to target Doris every time he carries to stop him from getting the ball free for offloads and presenting a quick ruck ball. 

On the flip side, Doris is no stranger to smashing open rucks single-handedly and likely will be tasked with being Ireland’s chief turnover merchant. 

The captains’ back-row compatriots undoubtedly will be crucial, with both sides opting for dynamic carriers across the board, yet the head-to-head matchup between the two men will be worth the ticket price alone. 

Key Figures

*Key statistics per Opta sports* 

Ireland has won 23 of its previous 24 Six Nations matches against Italy (L1), including each of the last 10, and has won all 12 of their previous encounters in Dublin by an average margin of 29 points. 

Ireland has won each of its last 16 test matches on home soil, the team's longest such run in men’s test rugby, with Ireland scoring four tries or more in 12 of those 16 matches. 

Ireland has won each of its last nine games in the Six Nations, the team's longest such run in the Five or Six Nations. In fact, only England (W11, 2015-2017) has reached double figures for consecutive victories in the Championship since Italy joined in 2000.

Italy has won just one of its last 43 Six Nations matches (L42) and has lost each of its last six in the competition. However, each of the Azzurri’s last two Championship wins have come away from home (against Wales in 2022 and Scotland in 2015).

Ireland and Italy each made six line breaks in the opening round of this year’s Six Nations, the joint-most of any of the teams, along with Wales. Italy also had the highest tackle evasion rate of any team last time out (22%) 

Italy (2.0) conceded fewer points per defensive 22 entry than any other side in the first round of the Six Nations, while Ireland scored more points per attacking 22 entry than any other team last weekend (4.2) 

Ireland (32%) and Italy (30%) moved the ball beyond the first receiver from a greater share of their attacking phases than any other teams last weekend. 

They also were the only two teams to attack the openside of the pitch from 90%+ of their attacking phases last weekend (Ireland – 91%, and Italy – 92%).

Ireland’s McCarthy crossed the gain line from a greater percentage of his carries than any other forward to carry on 5+ occasions last weekend (89%).

Italy’s Monty Ioane beat more defenders than any other player in the opening round of the Six Nations (six), while teammate Tommaso Menocello beat over twice as many defenders as any other center last time out (five).


It is rare to see Farrell make so many changes to his starting lineup. However, it is a clear indication that he is supremely confident in his squad’s strength in depth. 

Farrell will, of course, be aware of the threat posed by the Azzurri, who at times tore England’s defense to shreds in Rome, but will back his team to believe in its highly effective system. 

There's no doubt Italy is a coming force and unrecognizable from the team that took to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. However, this weekend’s matchup will be a step too far for them against one of the world’s best teams. The match will be tighter than many expect, but Ireland ultimately will pull away as the match goes on. Ireland by 15. 

Team Lineusps


15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Caelan Doris (c), 6 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter

Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jordan Larmour 


15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro (c), 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Danilo Fischetti

Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, Andrea Zambonin, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori

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