Views from members of the Irish Rugby Supporters Club
Robert, Lucan, Co. Dublin: "The pendulum of Irish rugby is still swinging strongly! After the near despondency we experienced in the aftermath of the autumn internationals, we are now on a wave of cheery optimism in the wake of two super performances by Leinster and Munster in the Heineken Cup. The truth is, we should probably be somewhere in between...
"Italy first up in Lansdowne Road is a good opener. Despite their new coach's assertion that they want to play an expansive game, we're likely to see a fired-up physical performance form a very abrasive Azzurri pack. If Ireland establish dominance up front early on, then we could see some scintillating attacking rugby from an Irish back line which is made up of several individuals who are running into a rich vein of form - not least skipper Brian O'Driscoll...
"We are probably also witnessing the first moves in Eddie O'Sullivan's build-up to the 2007 World Cup. The old guard of (Anthony) Foley, (Reggie) Corrigan and (Shane) Byrne are out for this game. That said, the changes being introduced are gradual - there is still enough experience surrounding the newer players to ease their transition into Test match rugby...
"I think Ireland will win by a wide margin with some flowing rugby. The following week, however, against France will be an entirely different "chaudron de poissons!"
Justin, Maynooth, Co. Kildare: "What can we expect from Saturday onwards 'til the end of the competition? I think what can we hope for might be more apt a question. Efficient set piece play, intelligent rucking, line variations, mix of bish-bosh and spinning it out with most of all - OFFLOADING. This is what determines the momentum of a team like Ireland where "support the ball carrier" should be the mantra of each and every one of those players...
"Hit the tackle, next man in takes ball. Pick and drive? The very same. This is how to get teams on the backfoot. We need to mix it up - just like at Leinster. We have to USE THE TALENT as there is bags of it there! Think like Wales did last year - PLAY RUGBY!"
John, Limerick Exile living in Dublin: "The ever young Malcolm O'Kelly is for me, an automatic start ahead of Donncha O'Callaghan. His experience and strength will be critical against a very tough and physical Italian team. The Italians are big, strong and can hold onto the ball against the best. This game will require a cool head in an expectant Lansdowne Road...
"No surprise really that David Wallace is included in the starting line-up. His displays in the red of Munster this year (particularity against Sale), screamed for his inclusion. There is a lot of pressure on him tomorrow to prove to himself that the jersey should be his for the remainder of the competition. If not, Ireland has Johnny O'Connor waiting in the wings...
"Personally I don't want to win by 5 points and play "ok". I don't want a damp squib of a game which we win by 50 points. Ireland is first up on the 6 Nations calendar for 2006 - as a rugby fan I want to see Ireland send out a message to the rest of the teams watching that we mean business."
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