Brendan Fanning: Clean bill of health as Irish thoughts shift to Paris test
Ireland 42 Italy 10
Published 26/02/2012 | 05:00
Ireland maintained their winning sequence over Italy, stretching back to 1999, when they scored five tries to one in a lopsided 42-10 win at Lansdowne Road yesterday, giving them some momentum going to Paris next Sunday for the rearranged game with France.
Declan Kidney expects to pick from a full deck for that game when he names his team on Wednesday, despite Gordon D'Arcy picking up a shoulder injury, and Cian Healy needing extensive treatment, as well as Rob Kearney having a sore groin.
Yesterday's game was notable for Ronan O'Gara coming off the bench to win his 118th cap, pushing him ahead of the record holder Brian O'Driscoll, and Munster's Peter O'Mahony winning his first cap, also off the bench.
Captain Paul O'Connell, who again was Ireland's hardest working forward, said he was happy enough with the result. "It's a good scoreline, no doubt about it," he said afterwards. "The lads are happy with that. There's a feeling of frustration I think with the first-half performance -- you know, simple things we didn't execute, we didn't get out of our own half. It was probably a bit of a series of events. There was one thing when we went wide once or twice and didn't retain it, and then lost the lineout. We were lining up a box kick at one stage and the ref called it out -- little things like that. It was very frustrating and annoying and we had a bit of a chat about that in the dressing room. But when we did get out of there and into their half I thought we were good.
"We were confident and we showed we have a lot of excellent players in the team. We took our tries well, I thought, and that was very satisfying."
Ireland now have a day's extra rest over France who take on Scotland in Edinburgh this afternoon.
This was an advantage France would have enjoyed had the game gone ahead in Paris two weeks ago. Ireland will find themselves back in that position however when Scotland come to Dublin in a fortnight.
"I was probably a bit worried coming into the game because some of us haven't played a whole lot of games since ERC [round] four, but we've all had a good pre-season and sometimes it takes some rest to bring out that kind of match fitness and it probably did for us out there today," added O'Connell.
"You look at Mike Ross and the work ethic he had there today and he stayed on for the 80 minutes. I thought as a pack fitness-wise we were in very good shape and that's satisfying so it is great getting that result going to Paris."
The challenge of another three games back to back is new to Ireland in this competition and it will put a spotlight on Kidney's use of the squad, where all of his bench were used from the 54th minute onwards.
"They did exactly as you'd hope when they came on," Kidney said of his replacements. "They're obviously skilful but their enthusiasm, their drive when they came on, was a good match for the work that was done for the first 50 minutes.
"There are things we can improve on that first 50 minutes but there was a lot of good physical work done in breaking them down as well. When they lads came on fresh they were making some good decisions. It certainly helps to liven up the selection debate all right but that's what you'd hope every replacement bench do when they come on."
Ireland have only recorded two wins in Paris in the past 40 years, and after the fiasco of the postponed game, they will have perhaps their smallest ever travelling contingent in that period.
The Triple Crown was wrapped up yesterday in Twickenham where replacement Scott Williams scored the winning try for Wales in a dramatic finale.
Wales, however, had to withstand a late referral to the TMO after England wing Dave Strettle got over in the corner, but the try was not awarded and Wales survived to win 19-12.
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