…No Roman Holiday For Bowe…O’Driscoll: We Will Treat Italians With Same Respect…Tom Court-ing Favour With Poetry Skills…Say What?…Numbers Game…
NO ROMAN HOLIDAY FOR BOWE: Looking forward to winning his 20th cap for Ireland this weekend, winger Tommy Bowe expects Italy to put in a much improved performance after losing their RBS 6 Nations opener 36-11 to England.
Asked if he feels a very physical game is in the offing, Bowe said: “I don’t think you’re going to get too much more physical than the French. But under the intense pressure of the Italian crowd, it’s going to be a fairly physical affair and hopefully we’ll come out on the top.
“Italy have some quality players, particularly in the back-line. You have Mirco Bergamasco, who is a very talented player. They have a lot of very talented and speedy players out wide, so we won’t been taking anything lightly.
“Against the Italians, you never know what to expect from them. They send players up at all sorts of different angles and different speeds, so you never know where they’re coming from!”
Ireland boast an unbeaten record against Italy in the RBS 6 Nations, with nine straight wins since the Azzurri joined the competition in 2000.
Rather than worry about what the Italians can bring to the game, Bowe is confident that if Ireland can maintain their concentration and discipline and stick to their gameplan, then they should be able to build on last week’s success and chalk up Championship win number 2.
“We’re hoping to go over there, play a bit of rugby and if we can get the sort of set piece we got last weekend it should be a fairly successful trip for us.
“You can’t take any of these games lightly. I think the Italian side are going to be much changed from the one that played England.
“Whenever they play in Rome, they’re very difficult to play against. But hopefully if things go right for us and we can play the type of rugby we want to, it should work out for us.”
O’DRISCOLL: WE WILL TREAT ITALIANS WITH SAME RESPECT: Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll looked back to his best during last weekend’s 30-21 victory over France and he will be hoping for more of the same on Sunday when he leads his country for the 53rd time.
Last year, had Italy been able to convert their scoring chances, they may well have beaten Ireland at Croke Park.
Mindful of this and the fact that the Azzurri have toppled both Wales and Scotland in recent seasons, O’Driscoll and his troops will not be taking anything for granted at what is sure to be a noisy Stadio Flaminio.
“I think we always treated Italy with the same respect we gave to everyone else in the Six Nations. We realised every time we played them that it’s always a very tough, physical game,” O’Driscoll explained.
“A lot of the time it’s the most physical game we play in the Six Nations. That being said, you have to confront that and match them at least in that regard.
“They’re a team that try to stop you from playing so you have to work your gameplan into trying to get beyond that.”
And given that Nick Mallett’s men struggled when going down to England last weekend, they are sure to be extra keen to put one over on Ireland in their first home game of the tournament.
O’Driscoll warned: “They’re a very tough opposition and they’ve gotten better and better every year that they’ve played in the Six Nations.
“They’ve shown that by taking scalps over the last few years against Wales and Scotland, and I’m sure they’ll be taking a look at ourselves.
“They’re as tough opposition as you’ll get in this competition when they’re on their game.”
TOM COURT-ING FAVOUR WITH POETRY SKILLS: Many of you will have noted from reading Brian O’Driscoll’s RBS 6 Nations diary last week that the Ireland squad now has a resident poet in its midst.
The poetic prince is none other than Ulster prop Tom Court, who could make his Ireland debut off the bench against Italy this weekend.
The 28-year-old, who is Irish-qualified through his Limerick-born grandfather, came to rugby late after a shot putting career which saw him win three Australian university titles.
He sat on the bench and missed out on his senior bow against France last week, but his presence off the pitch was certainly felt.
“There is great sense of purpose and enjoyment in the squad these days with different people taking on some unusual responsibilities,” O’Driscoll explained.
“Tom Court is a classic example as he pens a poem of the day which goes up on a board in the team room. The last one was about Les Kiss (our defence coach): Tom is surprisingly good.”
These poems have yet to be released for public consumption – IrishRugby.ie will get onto our mole to try and source one or two!
But having done some initial digging on the internet, could the below little beauty, penned by one ‘Tomas Court’, have been recently created in the Irish team hotel?
A Prop’s Lament
I’m simply a prop with a soul.
I write poems both moving and droll.
Sometimes deep in the scrum
to the Muse I succumb..
Did I write this? I did in me..
“Rome’s a nice place to take your girlfriend or wife! Fingers crossed there’ll be a good crowd for us. There normally is a good Irish support in Rome.
“Hopefully they will be as vocal as they were last week against France, because it was really super especially in the second half whenever we needed it – they were fantastic.”
– Ireland winger Tommy Bowe replies to a question about whether Valentine’s weekend in Rome will be a big draw for ‘amorous’ Irish fans and what a difference a vocal support can make
“Ireland are like they were two years ago. Their back-line is very good.
“For the last two years they’ve only been okay but as you saw on Saturday they played really well.
“We need to forget our performance against England quickly and improve defensively.
“The Irish have very experienced players on the wing and I’ll come up against Tommy Bowe who plays for the Ospreys and is very good.
“So before I think of doing any work on the inside, I’m going to have to close down the space on the outside.”
– Italy’s New Zealand-born winger Kaine Robertson gives his opinion on the Irish back-line and the improvements Declan Kidney’s side have made
“Italy are a different side and they’re probably not perceived to be as good (as France), but at the same time if we play poorly and get loose around ruck time, they can damage us.
“I think if we start going down that road (complacency) we’re in line for potentially wake-up call. We’ve been very strong this week about talking to each other and saying that if we’re not performing to our ability, there could be an upset.”
– Ireland full-back Rob Kearney compares the French and Italian sides and says that the Irish squad will guard against complacency as they look to secure their tenth straight Six Nations victory over Italy
134 – Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara holds the record for the number of points scored by an individual in the Ireland v Italy series of Test matches.
He has scored 134 points in nine appearances against the Azzurri, including a record 30-point tally in the sides’ 2000 Six Nations game at Lansdowne Road. Retired number 10 Diego Dominguez (96 points) is Italy’s top scorer in the series
10 – Four Ireland players have each played in ten of the Ireland-Italy Test matches to date. They are Girvan Dempsey, John Hayes, Malcolm O’Kelly and Peter Stringer.
Long-time Italian scrum half Alessandro Troncon is the record holder in terms of appearances for Italy against Ireland – he faced the Irish on 12 occasions during his career
39 – Ireland have made four trips to Stadio Flaminio in Rome since Italy joined the Six Nations in 2000. They averaged 39 points and five tries in those four games, with their highest score (51) and biggest try haul (8) achieved during their 51-24 victory there in 2007