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Shane Horgan sharing a choke with Brian O'Driscoll
Inpho/James Crombie
Ireland Set To Sparkle in Rome ?
3 March 2007, 11:12 am
By Chris Byrne
With the exception of the game against England at Croke Park, Ireland have really failed to sparkle in this year's RBS Six Nations, but that may change in Rome on Saturday.
No ALT tag specifiedIn fairness, when a side goes into any series with the expectations that attached Eddie O'Sullivan's side, the long grass is littered with danger.

They never really looked like losing to the Welsh. A share of luck in the opening half against France left them looking winners before that late try and even if England provided the weakest challenge of this or indeed any recent championship, the Irish still impressed with the controlled, clinical manner of that victory.

On to Scotland and the expectation that they would claim the Triple Crown pulling up only to find the Scots encouraged by the game not being over after the opening quarter having been pummeled by the Irish. But even when Chris Paterson kicked the Scots into a 18-13 lead, there would have been few rushing to the bookies looking for odds on a home win.

So despite showing less than their best form, Ireland go into this final game as Triple Crown holders and in with a shout of winning the championship. That we are told is the sign of a good side and even if the Triple Crown now seems to hold the same allure as the Eurovision song contest title, it is still a fair indicator of where Ireland stand.

And now there's just the Italians between them and more than likely, runner-up spot in the championship. If Scotland play like they did last week then France will give them a hiding, that is of course if the French decide not to reproduce the insipid fare they served up against England.

As for the other championship contenders England ? Well after they beat Scotland in the opener, they were World champions again and in with a shout of retaining the title - in their own eyes. The flaws evidenced in their no-show against Ireland weren't really flaws at all after they beat France. And now with the new generation -Palmer, Flood, Geraghty - they are set to take over the world again - in their own eyes. The headline in a British newspaper - Johhny Who ? - after that Twickenham victory probably sums up their problems very aptly. No need for Johnny Wilkinson now. Yeh right.

Someone needs to tell them that one swallow doesn't make a summer and those of you who are owed money by the bookies after Cheltenham might re-coup some of those losses with a little bet on Wales on Saturday.

For their part Ireland need feel in pressure in Rome and that might just help them produce the type of rugby that so thrilled in the autumn. While the Italians will be anxious to add another prestigious scalp to their belt, there is the chance that their appetite may already be sated.No ALT tag specified

Besides that they will miss the injured front-row pair Andrea Lo Cicero and Martin Castrogiovanni and even more so the suspended Mauro Bergamasco not to mention the threat posed by Gonzalo Canale and Andrea Masi.

Ireland can expect the Italians to start off at a hundred miles and hour and this will be as physical a game as the Irish have had. But without the above mentioned and with the flaky Ramiro Pez at out-half they may not possess the requisite firepower to register another Six nations victory.

Ireland: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Denis Hickie; Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Rory Best, John Hayes; Donncha O'Callaghan, Mick O'Driscoll; Simon Easterby, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Simon Best or Bryan Young, 18 Trevor Hogan 19 Neil Best, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Paddy Wallace, 22 Andrew Trimble.

Italy: Roland De Marigny; Kaine Robertson, Ezio Galon, Mirco Bergamasco, Matteo Pratichetti; Ramiro Pez, Alessandro Troncon; Salvatore Perugini, Carlo Festuccia, Carlos Nieto; Santiago Dellapè, Marco Bortolami;Alessandro Zanni, Maurizio Zaffiri, Sergio Parisse, Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Fabio Staibano, 18 Valerio Bernabò, 19 Josh Sole, 20 Paul Griffen, 21 Andrea Scanavacca, 22 Matteo Barbini.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Touch judges: Tony Spreadbury (England), Malcolm Changleng (Scotland)

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