Saturday 21 October 2017

Touchlines: Taking a sideways look at the Oval Office

Declan Kidney had some injury headaches in the build-up
Declan Kidney had some injury headaches in the build-up
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Flashback: Italy 11 Ireland 13, Stadio Flaminio, February 5, 2011 - Four years ago, Ireland opened their Six Nations campaign in Rome against an Italian side who they were scheduled to face at that year's World Cup and Declan Kidney had some injury headaches in build-up with Jamie Heaslip among those to eventually miss out.

Sound familiar? Well, what happened next should be ominous for the champions ahead of this weekend's visit to Italy as a team laden with experience needed a late Brian O'Driscoll surge and the magic boot of Ronan O'Gara to rescue the result with a last-gasp game-winning drop-goal.

Things looked bleak when Luke McLean gave his side a lead with minutes remaining, but Mirco Bergamasco's conversion drifted wide to offer hope to Ireland.

No better man than O'Gara, on as a replacement for Johnny Sexton, to nail the drop-goal.

Italy - L McLean; A Masi, G Canale, A Sgarbi (G Garcia 69) , Mirco Bergamasco; K Burton (L Orquera 71), E Gori (P Canavosio 10); S Perugini (A Lo Cicero 64), L Ghiraldini (F Ongaro 64), M Castrogiovanni; S Dellape (C del Fava 54), Q Geldenhuys; J Sole (V Bernabo 50), A Zanni, S Parisse.

Ireland - L Fitzgerald; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy (P Wallace 74), K Earls; J Sexton (R O'Gara 65), T O'Leary (E Reddan 63); C Healy, R Best (S Cronin 74), M Ross (T Court 74); D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (L Cullen 73); D Leamy, D Wallace, S O'Brien.

Gaelic Warriors ready to do battle

It won't just be the Stadio Olimpico that will see sparks fly on Saturday in Rome as the Irish Wheelchair rugby team get the day under way with their meeting with Italy.

The game is one for the early risers, taking place at the Stella Azzurra Sports Complex - only three miles from the main event - at 10am.

The Irish side lost out to the Italians in a European Championships eliminator the last time these teams met and defensive guard Garrett Culliton (right), once a flanker at Wanderers, says revenge is on Irish minds.

"Italy shattered our Euro dreams, the ultimate payback will be putting them to the sword in front of their own fans," he said.

"This will be a big scalp to take. We need as many travelling fans as possible to roar us on and make this a memorable occasion."

Even board games are serious business at camp Ireland

RUGBY is serious business in the world of Joe Schmidt and the Ireland management team, but it seems they have expansion in mind when it comes to the professionalisation of would-be pastimes.

This week, Rory Best revealed that no game is safe from the relentless pursuit of perfection, with childhood staple 'Guess Who?' being used by defence coach Les Kiss to prime players for their task at hand.

Instead of identifying 'Bill' through his bald head and red goatee, players identify Sergio Parisse by dint of his capacity to break the gainline, step off his preferred foot and tackle with his favourite shoulder.

"We've sat down before for a game of 'Guess Who?' in analysis sessions with Les," Best said.

"Everyone has a pen and paper, and he goes through maybe four or five points about an individual player from that week's opposition.

"It will be things like 'favours a right-hand carry', 'steps off his left', and so on, and when you think you've got it you put the name down on the paper.

"The pressure's on for you to know the opposition as well as you can. From the second you arrive at an Ireland camp, you're on edge."

Who's up for a game?

Number of the week

2 - Italy have won just two of their games since beating Ireland in the final game of the 2013 Six Nations, with Fiji and Samoa their only scalps in 17 attempts

Tweet of the week

@HendersonIain: 'Oh yesss, greatest news ever' - No, the Ireland second-row wasn't giving away his place in the match-day 23, he had just seen the news that Bruce Springsteen would be playing Croke Park, but indications are that he's in for some disappointment.

Quote of the weekend

'If you get dazzled by the starlight you get nowhere. You have to treat them as normal blokes who play rugby the same as you. Then it becomes a bit more of a level playing field.' - England lock Dave Attwood won't be blinded by Wales' star power

Irish Independent

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