Irish wary of bullish Italians
February 23, 2012
Paul O'Connell's side saw their last fixture in Paris beaten by the weather © Getty Images
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell is wary of a fired up Italy ahead of their Six Nations clash in Dublin on Saturday.
The Azzurri slipped to a narrow 19-15 defeat to England in their last outing after surrendering a strong position but O'Connell believes the will still take confidence from that showing in Rome.
"Italy's belief and confidence will have grown after their performance against England," the Ireland skipper said. "That was probably their best chance of beating England since the Six Nations started. Even though they lost to France, they played a lot of good rugby and were good with the ball in hand at times.
"Their attack has been a lot better over the last two games. They're beginning to mix it up and that's what you must do to be successful. You need that big, strong pack that can get you over the gainline. But once you've done that you must be able to attack out wide.
"They seem to have improved a lot in that regard since the Six Nations started. But we're hungry and enthusiastic. If we meet the physical challenge, we have a great chance of winning."
Almost three weeks have passed since Ireland opened their Six Nations with a last-gasp defeat to Wales and they saw their scheduled clash with France earlier this month beaten by the weather. O'Connell says his team-mates are raring to resume action.
"The guys are dying to play. We've been well looked after by the union coming into the competition," he said. "We were given two weeks without any games over Christmas and straight after the World Cup. Guys are well rested and feel fresh.
"The break hasn't been ideal, especially after you lose a game in the fashion we did to Wales. We were bitterly disappointed by what happened and are eager to put that right. You just want to get out there and play, so to sit on our hands for a few weeks has been frustrating. The guys are really looking forward to playing."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action