‘Physical’ has been the word tripping off the lips of the Ireland players as they contemplate taking on a wounded Italian side in Rome this Sunday. Ireland lock Paul O’Connell knows a tough assignment awaits the men in green.
This will be Paul O’Connell’s sixth Test appearance against Italy and he will not want to remember his last game against the Azzurri.
That was the 2007 Rugby World Cup warm-up tie at Ravenhill when the Italians very nearly claimed a shock win. O’Connell was captain that night.
The Munster giant was sidelined by injury for Ireland’s 2007 and 2008 RBS 6 Nations wins over Italy so he is itching to get stuck into Nick Mallett’s men on Sunday.
“Italy are certainly a physical side. Their scrum and lineout are very strong. They have some great ball carriers and strength in every area of the pack,” O’Connell said, previewing this weekend’s clash.
“Every year it seems to be our most physical game and we’ll be expecting nothing less this weekend.”
Talk of Ireland challenging for the title and a possible Grand Slam is certainly premature, even if Irish fans have been floating on a wave of optimism after last weekend’s 30-21 victory over France.
O’Connell, reflecting on that win, was delighted with the result but warned that Ireland have a lot of work ahead of them before they can be considered title contenders.
“We have only won one game, and while we want to and will be positive about it, we have to realise we have four more games to go and that’s a long way,” he said.
“On the positive side, our gameplan last week was simple. We all knew what we needed to do and were able to buy into it – sometimes the simpler it is the better.
“We did the basics well, we took our scores when we got down there, but it’s still only one game.”