Ireland (23) 29
Tries: Heaslip, O'Leary Cons: O'Gara 2 Pens: O'Gara 4, P Wallace
Italy (8) 11
Try: Robertson Pens: Gower, Mirco Bergamasco
Extended highlights - Ireland 29-11 Italy
Grand Slam holders Ireland laboured to a comfortable win over an unambitious Italy side in a scrappy Six Nations opener at Croke Park.
Tries from Jamie Heaslip and Tomas O'Leary put Ireland 23-3 up but Italy responded when Kaine Robertson charged down Rob Kearney's kick to score.
The Irish produced little purposeful play in the second half as the match petered out in disappointing fashion.
Ronan O'Gara had a 100% record with the boot as he landed 16 points.
But the defending champions will need a much-improved performance if they are to win in Paris next Saturday.
Italy produced early pressure in the Irish 22 and a try seemed on in the sixth minute but Luke McLean elected to cut inside instead of finding the overlapping Robertson and the chance was lost.
The Irish struggled for fluency in the opening minutes as they got pulled into contact by the Italians.
However, O'Gara kicked Ireland into the lead after 10 minutes and the fly-half's flat pass to a charging Andrew Trimble six minutes later helped set up the game's opening try - although it looked a shade forward.
Trimble looked as though he might finish off the move himself in the left corner but the Irish had numbers on the opposite flank and Heaslip ran in the score after quick hands from Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy and David Wallace.
O'Gara slotted the conversion to extend the advantage to 10-0 and things looked ominous for the Azzurri.
Former Australian rugby league star Craig Gower opened Italy's account with a penalty from 45 metres in the 26th minute but the 10-point margin was immediately restored as O'Gara slotted from 35 metres.
By this stage, Ireland were easily unpicking the Italian line-out and the fluffed set-piece resulted in three more O'Gara points in the 32th minute after Gonzalo Garcia was sin-binned for a spear tackle on O'Driscoll.
Italy's Luke McLean tries to halt Ireland winger Andrew Trimble
Leo Cullen was grabbing his chance after his late inclusion in the Irish line-up and his line-out steal from another botched Italian throw set up the game's second try as scrum-half O'Leary sniped over for his first international touchdown.
At that stage, Italy were being punished for their dearth of ambition but they were gifted an unexpected try moments before the break as Robertson charged down Kearney's casual clearance and got the touchdown.
By now, Mirco Bergamasco had been handed the kicking duties for Italy and while he missed the conversion, he did notch a penalty five minutes into the second half.
O'Gara duly responded with another three-pointer but a pedestrian 15 minutes followed as neither side summoned up an attack of note.
At that stage, there was a suspicion that Irish minds may have already been turning towards next week's clash against France and it made for dull and scrappy fare.
The introduction of the usual plethora of substitutes injected little urgency, although replacement fly-half Paddy Wallace produced a delightful break and then slotted a penalty with 13 minutes left.
But, mercifully, the contest eventually came to an end at a largely muted Croke Park.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll (captain), Gordon D'Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Ronan O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary; Cian Healy, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Leo Cullen, Paul O'Connell, Kevin McLaughlin, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Keith Earls for Trimble (56), Paddy Wallace for O'Gara (65), Eoin Reddan for O'Leary (73), Rory Best for Flannery (56), Sean O'Brien for Hayes (72), Donnacha Ryan for O'Connell (61), Tom Court for David Wallace (72).
Italy: Luke McLean, Kaine Robertson, Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco, Craig Gower, Tito Tebaldi; Salvatore Perugini, Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), Martin Castrogiovanni, Carlo Antonio Del Fava, Quintin Geldenhuys, Josh Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, Alessandro Zanni.
Replacements: Andrea Masi for Robertson (58), Riccardo Bocchino for Gower (65), Simon Picone for Tebaldi (65), Fabio Ongaro for Ghiraldini (72), Matias Aguero for Castrogiovanni (56), Marco Bortolami for Del Fava (49).
Not Used: Derbyshire.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Touch judges: Christophe Berdos & Jerome Garces (France)
TV: Geoff Warren (England)