12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Brian O'Driscoll, who is set to start his first Test for Ireland since last March's 32-20 defeat by Wales in Cardiff, reckons it will take a couple of internationals before he can "get back into the swing of things" at this level. Having played five times for Leinster since making his comeback in December from a dislocated right shoulder, O'Driscoll admitted: "I've gradually started getting better and better (after the injury) and, as far as I am concerned, if I do the simple things right against Italy, defend well and create something here or there, that's where I am happy at."
He added: "Obviously, my fitness has improved with each game, but it's another level up from Heineken Cup that we are playing at in the 6 Nations.
"It'll take a couple of internationals to get back into the swing of things."
Eddie O'Sullivan is banking on his side's footballing ability to play themselves out of some tough situations in today's clash at Lansdowne Road. Emphasising the physicality of the Italian pack, the Irish coach said: "We'll have to move the ball away from Italy's pack as much as possible.
"Two years ago we played them at Lansdowne Road in what was a wind tunnel. We couldn't pass the football and had to take them on at their own game. It was a really physical encounter which didn't suit us at all.
"We won (19-3) but it's important we don't try to take them on at their strengths, which is in their forwards. If we have to take them on up front - we will - we've done that before and won.
"But it's a harder day's work (doing that) because they take a lot of breaking down."
Brian O'Driscoll will make his 60th appearance for Ireland this afternoon. The star centre is currently tenth in the list of Ireland's most capped players of all-time. Current players Peter Stringer (61 caps), Girvan Dempsey (62), Anthony Foley (62), Kevin Maggs (70), David Humphreys (72) and Malcolm O'Kelly (75) are ahead of the 27-year-old.
O'Driscoll revealed: "The smallest things have changed the squad. We've moved hotels and went on a team night out recently, so coming into camp this week you look at people differently and it has boosted team morale."
Eddie O'Sullivan singled out Perpignan fly half Ramiro Pez for a special mention at the press conference. Today marks Pez's first 6 Nations start since 2003. O'Sullivan said: "Pez is like most players in key positions. If his confidence is up he can be dangerous - and his confidence is up at the moment.
'He's produced some fairly solid performances for Italy and is a key guy in terms of his running and kicking game. I expect him to run the game pretty well. He's an experienced guy now who has played in the 6 Nations a few times. He's in a good run of form."
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**