…Trimble To Make Most Of “Dream” Opportunity…Italy Getting “Tougher By The Year” Says Stringer…Did You Know?…Say What?…Numbers Game…
TRIMBLE TO MAKE MOST OF “DREAM” OPPORTUNITY: Ulster flyer Andrew Trimble is determined to make the most of Friday’s encounter with Italy as the Ballymena clubman gleefully dons the Ireland number 13 jersey in front of his home crowd.
“It doesn’t get any better for me. Playing for Ireland wearing the number 13 shirt and at Ravenhill as well is a dream come true,” admitted the 22-year-old.
“Stepping in for Brian (O’Driscoll)…they are big old shoes to fill at the same time. I would say there would be a fair bit of pressure, but we will just go out there and see what happens.
“I think over the last couple of weeks we have built on our performances. In the Bayonne game there were bits and pieces of really good stuff. Hopefully we can build on that and put an 80-minute performance against the Italians.”
Trimble, who scored his sixth Test try earlier this month against Scotland, added: “I have chatted to Brian a bit and we have been talking as a back-line about different ways of breaking Italy down. I think we know what sort of headset we have got going into it and where we are looking exploit things.”
Against the Azzurri Trimble will have Leinster’s Gordon D’Arcy on his inside in Ireland’s midfield and the 2005 Lion is looking forward to linking up with his young team-mate.
“Andrew’s all-round game has developed massively and he is probably a more mature player and not as shy around the place as well,” said D’Arcy.
“Trimby and I have played about three or four times in the midfield together, and at certain stages I defend at 13 and he is on the right wing so we are just moving in a channel. So we know each other pretty well.”
ITALY GETTING “TOUGHER BY THE YEAR” SAYS STRINGER: Ireland’s long-time scrum half Peter Stringer has certainly been in the wars in previous outings against Italy.
The Munster pivot, who is a doubt for Friday’s clash due to a back spasm, frustrated the Azzurri into foul play during their first years in the Six Nations but now reckons Marco Bortolami’s men are decidedly more streetwise.
“When I started out in 2000, Italy were tough about the pitch if not very skilful. But they have been getting tougher to play by the year, while also gaining in confidence and experience.
“You only have to look at their players that are living and playing in France for evidence of that,” he told the Irish Daily Star.
If passed fit Stringer will be partnering his school-mate Ronan O’Gara for their 50th Test start together as Ireland’s half-backs, and the Corkman is looking forward to getting the right sort of test Ireland need with the World Cup fast approaching.
“It’s not a bad type of build-up for us, especially at ruck time as the Italians are so similar to Argentina. Italy never consider the ball to be lost – they are always fighting for it.
“It’s not something Irish players get too much experience of playing against other than once a season, although those of us who are with Munster have played Treviso and Viadana in the Heineken Cup.
“They are the exact opposite of, say, the Super 14 style where if they first guy doesn’t get the ball, everybody just fans out across the pitch,” he added.
DID YOU KNOW?:
– If prop Simon Best is sprung from the bench to join his hooker brother Rory in the Ireland team on Friday night, the Poyntzpass pair will become the first brothers to play for Ireland at Ravenhill since 1924.
The Irish side that played England at the Belfast venue 83 years ago contained two sets of brothers – Ulster’s GV Stephenson and HW Stephenson and WP Collopy and R Collopy from Dublin club Bective Rangers.
– Veteran Italian scrum half Alessandro Troncon will be making his 97th appearance for his country on Friday. The Treviso-born player has already played 10 times against Ireland and featured in the Azzurri’s two wins over the Irish in 1997.
– Friday’s match will mark the fourth occasion that Munster lock Paul O’Connell has captained Ireland. He led his country against France (2004), Scotland (2005) and France (2007), with his record showing one win and two defeats.
“It will have a different dynamic and the ground looks completely different with the temporary stand in. It will be the biggest crowd we have had here since the Heineken Cup semi-final against Stade Francais in 1999, and it promises to be a great occasion.
“This is less about money and more about a feel-good factor. People who can’t see the game live can see it on TV and hopefully will look at its very best. It is a positive – not just for rugby and the Ulster Branch, but also for Belfast and Northern Ireland.”
– Ulster Rugby chief executive Michael Reid gives his opinion on Ravenhill’s hosting of the Ireland-Italy match and the benefits the fixture will bring to rugby in the province and Northern Ireland
“I know a couple of their guys as I play my club rugby with Martin Castrogiovanni and I’ve been introduced to quite a lot of his Italian friends.
“Italy are a very strong side, they have improved immeasurable over the last few years and they are real contenders now. They are a very big side and when they put their game together they are pretty impressive.
“Castrogiovanni is a big boy but he is quick as well, he was the Leicester players’ player of the season last year. He is a huge asset and a very good prop.”
– Ireland’s Geordan Murphy talks about the Italian team and his club-mate Martin Castrogiovanni who he will be lining out against at Ravenhill
“This Ireland team is, in my opinion, the best team in Europe at the moment. Only France are playing at the same level of the Irish.
Even without Brian O’Driscoll, they’re still a team of incredible potential and ability. They’re very strong all over the field, have a great defence and their back-line can leave any defence breathless.
“They’ll have their best possible formation on Friday and for us it will be an important test, a good test of where we are at before we go to the World Cup.”
– Italy lock and captain Marco Bortolami has a high regard for the Ireland team his side will face at Ravenhill on Friday night
37 – The average number of points Ireland have scored against Italy in the sides’ previous five meetings
13 – The average number of points Italy have scored against Ireland in the sides’ previous five meetings
5 – Captain Jim McCarthy, Jack Kyle, Maurice Mortell, Ronnie Kavanagh and Gerry Reidy, five surviving members from the Irish team that graced Ravenhill in the 1950s, are all expected to attend Friday’s match in Belfast as guests of the IRFU