…De Marigny And Bortolami Eye A Prized Hat-Trick…Under-20s Face Buoyant Italians…O’Gara Top Of The Scoring Charts…Say What?…Numbers Game…
DE MARIGNY AND BORTOLAMI EYE A PRIZED HAT-TRICK: Not content with making history by recording back-to-back wins in the Six Nations for the first time, Italy will be all out to make it three on the trot against Ireland next Saturday.
Italian full-back Roland De Marigny, who was out in the cold – missing 20 Tests – before he was recalled last month against France, reckons the Azzurri might just spring another surprise against the championship-chasing Irish.
Asked if his side can go on and beat Ireland for the first time in the tournament’s history, the Calvisano player said: “Anything’s possible. We’re playing good rugby and luck is on our side at the moment.
“We’re going to enjoy this evening,” he admitted after Italy’s dramatic defeat of Wales. “I believe we deserve it and from tomorrow, we’ll work and see how we can beat the Irish next week. “It’s not going to be easy but the way things are going at the moment, who knows?”
Italian skipper Marco Bortolami, who is based in England with Gloucester, is also bullish about his side’s chances of causing another upset in Rome.
“This is the best Italian team ever,” enthused the amiable lock. “I think the margins to improve our performance are still big but we’re confident that we can raise our game again against Ireland.
“We have to work hard this week. We desperately need a big performance (against Ireland). We proved last year in Ireland that we’re very close to beating them and we believe we can do so next weekend.”
UNDER-20S FACE BUOYANT ITALIANS: The Irish Under-20s will be chasing a Six Nations championship and Grand Slam double when they meet the Italian U-21 side in Benevento on Friday (kick-off 2.30pm local time).
But just like their senior counterparts, the Italian youngsters will be hoping to end the championship on a high themselves after two very encouraging wins over Scotland and Wales.
Italian coach Gianluca Guidi reckons Eric Elwood’s Irish team have been the “surprise package” of the tournament. “We have begun to analyse the Irish game with the help of our video analyst Francisco Pompi and we’ll be ready for them on Friday.
“The two successes against Scotland and Wales have been fundamental to our development and now we want to finish out what has already been a very positive Six Nations for us.”
Centre Davide Duca kicked five penalties and a conversion in Beltrametti last Friday to see the Italians post a hard-fought 22-21 victory over Wales – they had failed to beat Wales in nine previous meetings at Under-21 level.
O’GARA TOP OF THE SCORING CHARTS: Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara is gunning for a ‘Triple Crown’ of his own in Rome next weekend as he bids to finish as the Six Nations’ top points scorer for the third year running.
The Corkman, who turned 30 last week, is currently top of the charts. He has a five-point lead over Scotland’s Chris Paterson, thanks to a haul of three tries, six conversions and thirteen penalties.
O’Gara is also the joint-top try scorer to date in this year’s tournament with three touchdowns, a tally matched by England winger Jason Robinson.
The record for points scored by an individual in a Six Nations tournament is currently held by England out-half Jonny Wilkinson (89 points in 2001).
TOP POINTS SCORERS (AFTER FOUR ROUNDS) –
66 – Ronan O’Gara (Ireland)
61 – Chris Paterson (Scotland)
50 – Jonny Wilkinson (England)
47 – David Skrela (France)
29 – Andrea Scanavacca (Italy)
26 – Stephen Jones (Wales)
16 – Toby Flood (England)
TOP TRY SCORERS (AFTER FOUR ROUNDS) –
3 – Jason Robinson (England), Ronan O’Gara (Ireland)
2 – Sebastien Chabal (France), Rob Dewey (Scotland), Christophe Dominici (France), Andrea Scanavacca (Italy), Mauro Bergamasco (Italy), Kaine Robertson (Italy)
“I’m not at all surprised Italy beat Wales. It is time people sat up and accepted that Italy are a serious team in the Six Nations now. They’ve won away from home this year and they’ve won at home this year, and we’ve got our work cut out on Saturday – there’s no doubt about that.
“They’ve got momentum after securing two wins on the bounce and we’re expecting a dogfight in Rome.”
– Impressed by Italy’s recent winning form, Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan is expecting his side to face another ‘dogfight’ next weekend against a tough Italian side
“I’m happy with the way I am fitting in around the team. I feel now I have a certain amount of respect from the lads. They know I’m going to do a certain amount of work or know that I have their inside and they can push off – stuff like that.
It comes from playing non-stop. It was good to get a bit of performance (in against Scotland).”
– Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan is beginning to feel at home in the Ireland side. He has played in all 18 of Ireland’s Test matches since the start of the 2005 autumn series
“This win is for the team-mates that have been unable to be here today with us because of injury. The strength of Italy is the collective, we have proved once again that we can beat anyone. We have to continue to work really hard.”
– Italian lock and captain Marco Bortolami reveals the big bond that exists in the Azzurri’s squad after their dramatic 23-20 win over Wales last Saturday
67 – The percentage of Ireland’s total points scored (98) that Ronan O’Gara has accumulated during the opening four rounds of matches in the 2007 Six Nations
11 – The number of players who have started in all four of Ireland’s matches in the 2007 Six Nations to date – Girvan Dempsey, Gordon D’Arcy, Denis Hickie, Ronan O’Gara, Rory Best, John Hayes, Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan, Simon Easterby, David Wallace and Denis Leamy
15 – The average winning margin Ireland have had over Italy in the sides’ five Six Nations meetings during the Eddie O’Sullivan era