Ireland player ratings: Front-row demolition allows the backs to cut the Azzurri open

Jared Wright
Italy's Stephen Varney stops Ireland's Dan Sheehan from scoring a try during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

Italy's Stephen Varney stops Ireland's Dan Sheehan from scoring a try during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

Following Ireland’s 36-0 victory over Italy in Round Two of the Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, here is how we rated Andy Farrell’s side.

Ireland player ratings v Italy

15 Hugo Keenan: There will be some concerns over his fitness after he left the pitch before the hour mark, but there won’t be any over his performance. Stock standard excellence on attack, making two clean breaks and beating eight defenders. 6

14 Calvin Nash: It’s a huge compliment to Nash that the absence of Mack Hansen has barely been felt this Six Nations. The Munster flyer backed up his solid showing last week by grabbing back-to-back tries and making good decisions whenever he got the ball. 7

13 Robbie Henshaw: The centre had his try ruled out for crawling but put in another strong display to ease concerns of his fitness. Very little to fault him on overall – as is the case for the whole squad – outside of a couple of poor passes. Still, he continues to show his class on both sides of the ball. 6

12 Stuart McCloskey: Two try assists as the Ulsterman rose to the occasion and took his opportunity with both hands. He bullied the Italian midfield on both sides of the ball, and when he wasn’t powering into contact and producing stupidly good offloads, he was the perfect link man for Jack Crowley and Henshaw. 8

11 James Lowe: Named Player of the Match in a one-sided encounter, but Lowe did have a significant influence in most of what Ireland did well. He crossed for his first Test try of the year while his rocket of a left boot continued to be a massive weapon for the side. He racked up over 100 metres with ball in hand and hardly put a foot wrong on defence. 8

Munster half-backs

10 Jack Crowley: A few missed shots at goal, which only hurt Ireland’s points difference but may not matter at all if they continue in this fashion. He was hugely effective when featuring as first receiver, making brilliant decisions with the ball in hand and getting a lovely offload away for Sheehan’s try and again for Nash. He also got a try for himself and was one of those unlucky not to claim the Player of the Match Award. 8

9 Craig Casey: Linked up nicely with his Munster teammate in an energetic and accurate display from the livewire scrum-half. He assisted a try, too, and looked comfortable filling in for Jamison Gibson-Park. 7

Planet Rugby player ratings key 10 - Career defining performance 9 - Outright blockbuster effort 8 - Significantly influenced the result of the game 7 - Committed and effective outing 6 - Flashes of brilliance outside of executing fundamentals 5 - Fulfilling the role required by position (base level) 4 - Poor execution of fundamentals 3 - Costly errors and/or discipline in the game 2 - Poor performance that directly impacted the result 1 - Grossly ineffective throughout 0 - Should have carried water instead

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8 Jack Conan: Slipped quite a few tackles, but none were detrimental to the defence on the whole. Outside of a few soft moments, Conan enjoyed a fine shift as he led the carries from the pack and made good metres from them, crossing the whitewash before the break. 7

7 Caelan Doris: First-time skipper, and he did not disappoint in guiding his side to a comfortable victory. There was the odd error, out of character, but it mattered little as he still hammered Italian players on defence and carried superbly with the ball in hand. It doesn’t really matter what number he has on his back; he is still a quality loose forward. 7

6 Ryan Baird: Hugely effective with ball in hand, punching holes in the Italian defence and attracting several bodies to take him down. He, along with Joe McCarthy and James Ryan, contested well at the lineout, too and landed his shots on defence. 6

Tight five

5 James Ryan: Back into the starting XV after his surprising drop to the bench last week, the 27-year-old was back up to standard. He is not one for the outrageous brilliance but rather for doing the fundamentals to a high order, and that’s what he did against the Azzurri. 6

4 Joe McCarthy: Paolo Garbisi will be happy to see the back of the powerhouse lock who hammered the Italian fly-half. The second-rower landed some hefty hits and was part of a well-functioning lineout and breakdown. He was not quite as heroic as he was against France, but he was not poor. 7

3 Finlay Bealham: A rare start with Tadhg Furlong given a rest, and Bealham made the most of his opportunity with an influential shift in all facets of the game for 56 minutes. He was part of a strong front-row performance and got the upper hand in this crumbs over the solid Danilo Fischetti. It was a super showing in a special week when he became a dad. 8

2 Dan Sheehan: Two tries, a flawless lineout display, racked up an impressive 30 running metres and lent his weight on defence. There’s not much to really fault him on after what is becoming a trademark powerhouse performance. 8

1 Andrew Porter: Just the one penalty against the loosehead this week after a terrible five last week against France. He was his usual busy self around the park and comfortably got the better of Pietro Ceccarelli in the scrums. 8

Replacements: Just picked up from where the starters left off. Gibson-Park added real energy in the latter stages, while Josh van der Flier was another standout. 7

READ MORE: Clinical Ireland nil Italy as perfect start to Six Nations title defence continues