ON SATURDAY'S GAME:
"We've an earlier kick-off (to the other games) and an opportunity to go out and put in a big performance. Firstly, we've got to go in with the mentality that we're going to win it - go in with that mindset - and hopefully if the scores come, we can look to put some points on.
"It's going to be a very difficult challenge, we're fully aware of that. It's a matter of winning the game first of all but it's a great position to be in (with a chance of winning the championship).
"We've always looked to the Italians - each season they've improved, especially this year. We know how tough it is over in Italy, particularly with their heads up now after a couple of victories. They'll be fairly full of confidence.
"It should prove to be a great encounter and that's what the championship is all about. It's wide open going into the last day.
ON WHAT IRELAND NEED TO IMPROVE ON:
"We've got to speed up the ball and speed up the rucks. The Scots, with the game plan they had, they were going to slow us down as much as they could. We've got to work on getting that quick ball and getting back into our quick patterns to get in behind the Italians and not give them time to reorganise their defence.
"They've fairly strong in around those ruck areas with the defensive plan that they use, getting into the opposition's faces and not allowing them to play.
From that point of view, we've got to hold onto the ball, be patient and take them through phases, like we did against England, and hope that they run out of numbers.
ON HIS OPPOSITE NUMBER ALESSANDRO TRONCON:
"Troncon has done really well and has come back from nowhere really. The fact Italy's forwards are playing so well makes Troncon's job easier but there is no doubt he has been a key man for them. He's a great player and difficult opponent."
ON IRELAND'S TRAVELLING SUPPORT:
"The numbers of Irish we had over there (in Scotland) was remarkable. They always manage to get tickets somehow. I think St. Patrick's Day in Rome, it's big attraction for people. The game now is an added bonus knowing that there is a championship at stake. Obviously their support is going to be really huge for us."
ON HAVING A CHANCE TO WIN THE TITLE:
"It's where you'd want to be, I suppose, going into the last day of the championship. You'd want it to be up for grabs in some shape or form.
"I guess if we were to beat Italy, France would know what they would have to do against Scotland but that's out of our hands - all we can really concentrate on is putting in a good performance and getting a good result out of the Italian game."
ON PAUL O'CONNELL'S ABSENCE:
"Paulie's a huge loss for anyone - he's been monumental for us for a number of years. I'll probably miss him from a captain's point of view in that he tends to boss the forwards around and I'm able to look after the back line along with Rog (Ronan O'Gara).
"It's an opportunity for others to stand up and it's an opportunity for Mick O'Driscoll to come in and show what he's worth."
ON THE BATTLE UP FRONT:
"Packs win games, it won't be any different this weekend. Particularly with the Italian pack in good form. We'll have to be on the top of our game and make sure that physically and mentally we're up for the challenge because they won't be taking any backward steps."
ON THE ITALIAN TEAM:
"Italy are now playing with confidence. They have managed to pull out a couple of victories - very deservedly against Scotland and then against Wales, maybe they were a bit fortunate how things ended up.
"I expect a particularly hard game against them. It's not going to be the cricket scores that anyone might have imagined years ago. I'd say it will be a very tough affair and a close affair again."
ON PLAYING FIRST ON SATURDAY WITH THE CHAMPIONSHIP ON THE LINE:
"(Your mindset) can't change. You've got a job in hand. You've to go and win your game and make sure that's done first and foremost.
"After that, it's in the lap of the gods, the championship and how it's decided. It's about how France take on Scotland. But you take your eye off the ball and you'll slip up in the interim.
"Hopefully we can finish on a high. There's a championship there potentially for the taking, so all we can do is put in a big performance and hope for the result and that other teams do us some favours."
ON SATURDAY'S GAME AND THE ITALIAN TEAM:
"It's going to be a difficult day because of Italy and the way they play, and the way they play at the moment. They are probably having their best season since they joined the Six Nations and they are playing with a physicality and aggression that no other side brings to the tournament.
"It is possibly the best team they have had in quite a number of years. They're probably a bit more balanced now, they have players all over the park who contribute to the overall strength of the side, and even the lesser-known guys bring a physicality and passion to the game, particularly in Rome.
"It's going to be very exciting for them and it's something that we have to be very wary of. It can be pleasurable to play them if things are going well, but when they don't they can be very frustrating. They play a rush defence, they are right in your face and are very physical. Sometimes that can be frustrating but that's their game, that's what they want to do and that's the quality they bring to it."
ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP FINALE:
"There are other connotations and permutations that may happen throughout the day. I don't think they are really for our consideration until after our own game. After that I'm sure we will all be gathered around the TV if we get the right result against Italy.
"But if we start thinking about the game in Paris, and start thinking about how many tries we have to score or anything like that, I've no doubt that Italy will win the game and that would be a real disaster."
ON COMING INTO THE STARTING LINE-UP:
"I'd much prefer not to be coming into the side on the back of an injury to Paulie and he's going to be a big loss to Ireland. But that's the way it goes - you try to take your chance when it comes. It's a case of filling in the best I can and for the team a case of imposing our game on them, not sitting back and letting them get their game up and running.
"We need to get into them from the start, especially up front, and it's a big ask because they are arguably the toughest front five in the competition.
"All going well, we will win the game and that puts us in pole position for a couple of hours and that's the priority."
ON HIS LINEOUT ROLE WITH RORY BEST:
"Rory Best and I should work fine at the lineout, we've been in camp for seven weeks or so now and he's thrown to me many times. He's one of the best throwers in the game and I don't see it as an issue."
ON ITALY'S GOOD FORM:
"People wouldn't have foreseen what has happened and Italy going so well. As I've said, I see theirs as one of the toughest front fives in the competition so people have to be realistic. The lads were criticised after Scotland but they came out with a win and that's all that matters. If we go to Italy and win, we've got to be happy, we've got to be realistic."
ON HEADING INTO THE FINAL WEEKEND:
"It's exactly where we want to be, bar the slip up against France. These things happen, we've moved on and we responded well and we've got ourselves into a nice position where they might be some silverware for us this weekend.
"It's a big game, a tough game going to Rome. They're in a great position now, having won two games. Their tails are up. There's a bit of a frenzy in Italy about rugby, which is great, but it's important we go over and do a professional job."
ON SATURDAY'S GAME:
"I don't think going out playing champage rugby is on, especially against this Italian team. It's going to be a very, very tough battle up front, we're going to have to dig in hard and try and get the sort of ball we need for the boys outside.
"It's by no means going to be an easy game - we know how difficult it's going to be up front.
It's great to see Micko come in. He's been around for a few years. He's a great team player, a great man to have in your squad. It's great that he gets a chance now to show what he can do in the first 15. I'm delighted for him."
ON IRELAND'S APPROACH TO THE GAME:
"I think we need to dominate the collisions a bit more, get quicker ball and just really try and force our game plan on teams.
"I think against Scotland, we started well and made a few line breaks but then we allowed them into the game, they slowed down our ball, got bodies in the way - just disrupted everything - and from that point of view, we got sucked into a dogfight.
"At the end we were struggling, we were five points down but we just about did enough to get a result which was pleasing."