Simple formality in Italy for Ireland?
Saturday in Rome, the Irish, whose last Grand Slam dates back to 2018, will be favorites against the Italians, certainly more convincing than previous editions but who have only scored a bonus point so far.
The XV of Clover will be deprived of its captain, opener and master to play Johnny Sexton, unlike the XV of Italy which will recover his own, Paolo Garbisi.
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After his inaugural successes in Wales and against France, Ireland manager Andy Farrell rotated his squad by making six changes to his starting XV.
In the absence of Johnny Sexton, 37, who is nursing pain in the adductors, second line James Ryan will be the captain, associated with Iain Henderson who had not started a match for Ireland since the last day of the previous Tournament , against Scotland.
At the opening, it is Ross Byrne who will have the difficult task of making people forget the absence of Sexton and he will compose, with Craig Casey in the scrum, an unprecedented starting hinge in the Tournament.
Garry Ringrose (49 caps) withdrew for this third match of the Tournament, he was replaced in the starting XV by Stuart McCloskey, Jimmy O'Brien taking his place on the bench.
Paolo Garbisi, package in the first two matches of the Six Nations Tournament, will return to the opening with the XV of Italy against Ireland, Saturday in Rome.
The Montpellier opener (22 years old, 21 caps), injured in a knee at the beginning of January, returned to the field last weekend by entering the second half during the Top 14 match lost against Lyon (31-21).
"Paolo lived the atmosphere of the rally
(during the first two matches, editor's note),
he played well with his club for his return and we are very happy with the training sessions with us"
, explained coach Kieran Crowley.
England travel to Welsh in full doubt
At the end of the afternoon on Saturday, the XV of Wales, at home and after two heavy defeats, will for its part be keen not to sink in front of England, whose performance against Italy (31-14) somewhat reassured.
But Welsh rugby is in a sorry state with sluggish results, a threat of strike action by players and a federation rocked by accusations of sexist behavior.
Last in the standings with zero points, behind Italy which grabbed the defensive bonus against France (24-29), Leek's XV will not be favorites against the English, who are also looking for certainty after a defeat in Scotland and an unconvincing victory against the Transalpins.
But maintaining the match, uncertain until Wednesday, is already a small victory when a cancellation would have cost more than ten million euros to a federation that does not need that.
Unhappy with a plan to modify their contracts, the Welsh internationals waited for the last chance meeting on Wednesday to drop their strike threat.
For this game of fear, coach Warren Gatland chose to do without Dan Biggar and George North.
He nevertheless continued his review of the workforce, establishing Owen Williams (4 selections) at the opening and Mason Grady, for his first selection in A, in the center.
On the English side, Anthony Watson will be back in the XV of England for the first time in two years.
His tenure on the wing to replace Ollie Hassell-Collins, injured in a knee, is the only change that Steve Borthwick made to the lined up team two weeks ago at Twickenham against Italy (victory 31-14).
"We know the crowd at the Principality Stadium will be speaking out loud and that we will need to be at our very best to repeat our victory against Italy the previous day," Borthwick said.