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Schmidt will use Larmour from bench to keep pressure on tiring Italy

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

After the drama of Paris, Ireland fans are expecting something more straightforward tomorrow when Italy arrive at the Aviva Stadium.

Although they caused his side problems twice in 2015, Joe Schmidt's charges have generally dealt comfortably with the Azzurri challenge and there is nothing to suggest that the round two clash between the teams will be any different.

Conor O'Shea's men shipped seven tries against England last Sunday and have had a day fewer to prepare for this one, and that's before you factor in the travel. 12 of the former Ireland full-back's side started in Rome, meaning fatigue will be running high as the second half ticks on.

That's when Schmidt will plan to introduce Jordan Larmour to the Test arena, making him Ireland's youngest Six Nations debutant since Luke Fitzgerald 10 years ago.

The 20-year-old deserves his call-up after tearing up trees for Leinster in recent weeks and Schmidt is looking for more of the same qualities he first spotted when he watched Larmour line out for a Blackrock College President's XV against a touring school side from New Zealand three years ago.

"I just like the way when I first saw him playing three years ago he was playing in the midfield that day and how dynamic he was, how he sensed really good timing whether to make the pass or whether to carry the ball or whether to step back inside or take the outside break," he said.

"The great thing with Jordan is he has actually got the talent to do whichever of those is required.

"He is not a huge young man by any means but he has got so many other aspects to his game that he more than makes up for maybe that size and maturity that other players will bring to the game with the aspects that I have mentioned.

"I expect Jordan to provide what he's been providing, what we've all seen in provincial matches. That electric acceleration, that change of direction, but also that surety under the high ball, that skill. There has been a couple of really nice passes that he's linked in with to set players away.

"We'd love to see all of that, and away from the ball he's got a super work rate.

"We know that if we are coming under pressure he'll be working really hard to relieve that pressure.

"You don't place a player (on the pitch) and expect him to be looked after, he has an expectation himself, Jordan, that he is going to look after what he needs to do and hopefully bring those exciting elements that I mentioned to the game."

Although his side have scored nine tries in each of their last two meetings with Italy, Schmidt is asking for patience from an Irish crowd who are expecting a big win. He believes the scores will come, but it may take some time to break Italy down.

"I remember four years ago when we won the Championship by points-differential, we scored 19 points (against Italy) in the last six minutes," he said.

"If the crowd can be patient, maybe we can do something similar.

"Sometimes it takes a lot to break a team down. Italy, I remember four years ago when we did do that, they had been very close to beating Wales in the Millennium that year.

"It was only last year that they managed to beat the Springboks. They've got some new, exciting players.

"If it takes a while, I hope the crowd can stay in behind the team. The only thing we can guarantee is that we will be working as hard as we can to keep them entertained and the scoreboard ticking over.

"How do we do that? We're going to have to vary our game and try to keep them guessing. At the same time, we will have to match a fair level of physicality from what they are going to bring."

Ireland have lost the physical presence of James Ryan, who has a lingering groin problem after his all-action display in Paris.

Schmidt is confident he will recover in time to train during the squad's camp in Athlone next week in order to be ready to face Wales in two weeks' time.

"It's more precautionary than anything else," Schmidt said. "He is a young man who has had quite a few intermittent injury niggles through his development period into the professional career that he has now, and so I think with some of those players it is about placing them.

"Now, he placed himself on Saturday in some of the most torrid trench warfare that you can imagine and won a lot more battles than he lost.

"I thought he was carrying incredibly strongly, his number of involvements was very high, his tackle reliability was fantastic, so a lot of what James brings we just want to make sure we look after."

Jack Conan starts at No.8 for his Six Nations debut, with CJ Stander dropping to the bench after a mammoth shift in last weekend's 15-13 win over France in Paris.

Highly-rated young tighthead prop Andrew Porter could also make his tournament bow off the bench, while flanker Dan Leavy will make his first Six Nations start.

Leavy impressed in Paris after replacing the luckless Josh van der Flier, who will now miss the rest of the season with knee ligament damage.

Although Ryan misses out, his former Under-20 colleague Porter is on a bench laced with impact.

If they can deliver when introduced, Italy won't know what hit them and Ireland will hope to close out the game in a manner that secures a big score that could prove crucial come the closing rounds of the Championship.

Teams for Ireland v Italy tomorrow Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), D Toner (Leinster), P O'Mahony (Munster), D Leavy, J Conan (both Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, A Porter (all Leinster), Q Roux (Connacht), CJ Stander (Munster), K Marmion (Connacht), J Carbery, J Larmour (both Leinster).

Italy: M Minozzi (Zebre), T Benvenuti (Benetton), T Boni, T Castello, M Bellini (all Zebre), T Allan (Benetton), M Violi (Zebre), N Quaglio, L Bigi, S Ferrari, A Zanni, D Budd (all Benetton), S Negri, A Steyn (both Benetton), S Parisse (Stade Francais).

Replacements: L Ghiraldini (Toulouse), A Lovotti (Zebre), T Pasquali, F Ruzza (both Benetton), M Mbanda (Zebre), E Gori (Benetton), C Canna (Zebre), J Hayward (Benetton)

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