The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
Throughout the competition, Ruddock’s side have shown what they are capable of, centre Tom Daly putting in a number of impressive performances including a last-minute conversion to sink defending champions England.
Currently sitting third, Ireland would need a huge points swing to improve on that and catch England in second place and for the trip to Italy, they are missing some key players, including Ulster full-back Stuart Olding.
But Ruddock is relishing the chance to see some new faces in action as he plans for the summer’s trip to France.
“Despite the fact that we are missing a few frontliners due to injury and unavailability we have still been able to select a strong side,” said Ruddock.
“We are looking forward to a very physical encounter against the Italian side. We are obviously looking to build on our win from last week to take us through into the IRB Junior World Championship.
“We have added some new combinations to the bench as we look towards the summer.”
Meanwhile, England head to Colwyn Bay for their winner takes all match with Wales. They currently trail their hosts by two points but have a superior goal difference and will defend their crown if they win the match.
It will be Rob Hunter’s last match in charge of the side before he moves to Exeter Chiefs to become forwards coach – but he’s focusing solely on the task on Friday.
“It’ll be a tough game, but a big game in front of a sold out crowd,” said Hunter.
“Wales have performed very well in this competition and they’ve been quite consistent with their selection – we’ll approach this one as we would any other, we want a good performance from the guys. It hasn’t really crossed my mind to be honest, the focus is on Friday night.”
Elsewhere, France host Scotland as fifth plays fifth, and visiting head coach Sean Lineen is looking for a response from his side after they were comfortably beaten by Wales last time out.
“We were second best in everything [against Wales]. Wales were very good, but they scored every time from our possession. That is hard to take,” said Lineen.
“The players emptied themselves in the last two matches, but they didn’t [against Wales]. However, we have to take this loss on the chin and finish with a good performance against France next week.”