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Mick O'Driscoll talking to the press in the run up to today's game
Inpho/Donall Farmer
What They're Saying In The Papers
3 March 2007, 8:47 am
By Pat Geraghty
With an estimated 15,000+ Irish supporters descending on Rome today for the RBS Six Nations clash with Italy, Gerry Thornley in the Irish Times sees this, and the rumoured attendance of Bono in the Stadio Flaminio, as evidence that Ireland are becoming the new Munster !
No ALT tag specifiedThe only difficulty with that assertion is that if this were Munster who were playing in a potential championship winning contest, there would be 30,000+ Munster supporters on hand notwithstanding the fact that they wouldn't fit into the stadium.

Nevertheless Thornley's point about Ireland's popularity is valid with the occasion and the location acting as a magnet for thousands of Celtic tigers, tigresses and their cubs. Oh and Bono too.

As for the game itself, in highlighting the absence "of the hugely influential Andrea Lo Cicero, Martin Castrogiovanni and the versatile Mauro Bergamasco, " Thornley wonders, "Which Irish team will turn up today?"

"Viewed coldly," he continues, " and broken down into eight halves, it might reasonably be stated that Ireland have played up to their own standards of last autumn in three of the eight periods, the second against France and both against England. Ireland simply have to match the physical intensity of the efforts in those highs, scrum hard, ruck and protect recycled ball with much greater intensity and be far, far more precise with the ball than they were in Murrayfield a week ago."

In conclusion, and anticipating that the Italians will make this a dogfight, Thornley believes that if Ireland employ the tactical mix (playing territory, keeping possession, using their maul) "and most of all rediscover their physical intensity and accuracy, the (Irish) celebrating in the No ALT tag specifiedRoman sun will extend long into the night."

In the Irish Independent, Dave Kelly talks of the "hugely significant absence Mauro Bergamasco," and like Thornley warns of the danger of allowing Italy settle, "Allowing them to settle into their stride, as Irish sides have managed to do in recent years, would probably result in the type of Russian Roulette witnessed in Edinburgh last weekend."

But then Kelly provides the comforting news that although, "Italy are having their best run since joining the championship in 2000, under Eddie O'Sullivan's tutelage, Ireland are unbeaten against the Italians - by an average winning margin of 15 points."

Kelly says, "Marcus Horan's full fitness is a major boost against a rugged Italian front-row who, notwithstanding Andrea Lo Cicero's late withdrawal, represent easily Ireland's toughest opponents in the scrum this spring. But Ireland have consistently stepped up to the plate when their virility in the set-piece has been threatened this season."

"Performing well and winning are the only elements in their control. Like last week, they'd take winning ugly by a point. You just feel they've left a lot of good rugby behind them this season.

"Hopefully, we might see some more of it this afternoon. " he concludes.

No ALT tag specifiedCharlie Mulqueen (Irish Examiner) urges Ireland to focus on victory not points, "My great fear is that Ireland may miss out on the championship by a few points because they didn't go for the jugular early enough. To go into the World Cup as European champions would be a nice psychological boost and it can materialise with an adventurous but sensible approach this afternoon." says Mulqueen.

Italian coach the Frenchman Pierre Berbizier, also in the Irish Examiner alludes to Ireland's championship ambition as a possible distraction, ""They will try to get as many points as they can against us," he said. "But that's their problem.

"There's a French expression that says there's not two without three," said Berbizier. "This is a good opportunity for us to show that we can play at a high level. This game is important for our fans but it's also important for our players and Italian rugby."

Once again the absence of experienced flanker Mauro Bergamasco, who is suspended, and injured duo Andrea Lo Cicero and Gonzalo Canale is raised but Berbizier prefers to look at the positives.

"This is the reality we face," he said. "But I have full confidence in my players. Those who will step on the pitch will give everything they have to help the team."





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