Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan is under no illusions about the task facing his charges this afternoon in Rome, “it’s going to be tough,” he predicts, ” a real dog-fight.”
Speaking ahead of Ireland’s Royal Bank of Scotland Six Nations clash with Italy, Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan spoke of the challenge his side faces against a buoyant Italian side.
“I’m sure Wales will be disappointed with their performance but I think we have to look at it in a broader sense. Wales played about as well as Italy allowed them to. I think it’s a very different Italian team. They’ve retained the strength in the set piece that Brad Johnstone brought to the team. I think John Kirwan has brought another few strings to their bow They’re a lot more structured in their attack. They’ve got something akin to Argentinean stroke French rugby. It’s very hard up front and very physical in the midfield.”
“Now, we’ve come out of the Scottish game with a lot of tired bodies, we’ve had to travel a long distance and to be honest it is a bit of a concern. We’re trying to keep guys as fresh as we can. It’s a whole new world really. We’ve never done this before in Six Nations. The travel dimension doesn’t help. So there is the concern that they’re sitting there waiting for us, with an extra day recovery and no travel day in their week.”
“Earlier in the week we didn’t train that hard but the lads were a bit heavy in the legs. There was a little bit of fatigue there but that’s just part of life and we have to cut our cloth accordingly.”
“Against Scotland, by and large I thought our defence was good. We got busted a couple of times but when we did we recovered well. It was very frantic and we spent a lot of time without the ball. I think the test of it was that we kept our shape very well and we still kept our aggression in the tackle. When you’re going through those six, seven, eight, nine phases and the ball keeps coming back quickly, it’s a real test. It’s a test of the system, the confidence the players have in it, and then the mental capacity to keep their wits about them under pressure. Having said that, we did make mistakes. We were lucky a few times. We have made a big step forward in the past year. It’s not perfect yet, it doesn’t mean at some point we won’t get caught. It’s never the finished product but I think last Sunday was another very good step forward.”
“Next Saturday will be a different type of test. Italy are very physical with the ball in hand, very strong midfield. Every game is different, a different test. When we played here last time it was a very physical game. It’s a different type of physicality to say what the Scots offer. Scotland are very frenetic and very quick. Italy mightn’t be as quick and frenetic as the Scots but they have probably one of the biggest centres in the world, Cristian Stoica, who defends at 12 and plays at 13. He’s a huge player for them and creates mayhem in most mid-fields.
Mauro Bergamasco is a dangerous guy because he’s so quick and so big. When he’s playing at seven, he’s at close quarters with forwards around, but when he’s in that outside channel he can run over two or three players before you can get to him.
Their back three are well equipped to run with the ball and take people out.”
“It’s a very different Italian team than we’ve been used to and I think they’ve come another step down the road again this year as was evidenced last weekend against Wales. I think it’s going to be a tough dog-fight, I’m under no illusions about that.”