Groundhog Day in Rome
5th February 2011 By Munster Rugby
Previews of today’s game in the newspapers carry the normal well worn riders warning of Italian physicality, threat the Italians pose at home and it being the first game, but former Ireland and current US Eagles coach Eddie O’Sullivan probably calls it best predicting Groundhog Day in the Eternal City.
O'Sullivan speaks of the usual 'diatribe' about this game being the 'banana skin' at the start of the RBS Six Nations, 'the threat presented by their scrum, their physicality in contact and how the Roman crowd will get behind the team with their chants of “Italia, Italia, Italia” like oles at a bullfight.. before concluding,
“But you know what ? None of this should matter.”
As far as O'Sullivan in concerned it will be a case of more of the same as the Italians try to beat-up the Irish, “attack Ireland today like mad dogs in a meat house,” as has always been the case, a tactic Ireland should be well prepared for.
“People can parrot on about the power of Italy's scrum, but they were doing the same last year and it didn't make a whit of difference at Croke Park.” he says while the area where'll they'll struggle will be at half back.
” So with Edoardo Gori and Kristopher Burton, who have amassed a grand total of six caps between them, starting today in Rome, Italy are extremely vulnerable. Going in to battle in the Six Nations with untried half-backs is like sending Columbus off in search of America without the benefit of a compass.”
And you know what ? He's dead right.
And to understand the threat the Italian outside backline pose, ask yourself the question, what Italian players would you swop for those Irish today wearing numbers 11-15 ?
O'Sullivan believes that, “Ireland will do what they have always done. They will keep their heads during the onslaught and at some point (usually about 10 minutes before half-time) strike with a precision that leaves Italy hanging on by their fingernails for the half-time whistle.
Here's hoping he's right.
Ireland: L Fitzgerald; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll capt, G D'Arcy, K Earls; J Sexton, T O'Leary; C Healy, R Best, M Ross; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; D Leamy, D Wallace, S O'Brien. Replacements: S Cronin, T Court, L Cullen, S Jennings, E Reddan, R O'Gara, P Wallace.
Italy: L McLean; A Masi, G Canale, A Sgarbi, M Bergamasco; K Burton, E Gori; S Perugini, L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni; S Delape, Q Geldenhuys; J Sole, A Zani, S Parisse capt Replacements: F Ongaro, A Lo Cicero, C Del Fava, V Bernabo, P Canavosio, L Orquera, G Garcia.