Lo Cicero calls for Italian revenge
Ireland must prepare for a World Cup warning shot from Italy in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations opener in Rome, according to former Azzurri prop Andrea Lo Cicero.
Lo Cicero believes Italy must harness the hurt of last year's 46-7 defeat to Ireland that proved a dream Dublin send-off for Brian O'Driscoll to have any chance of beating Joe Schmidt's tournament favourites.
Italy lost all five matches last year en route to the wooden spoon and Lo Cicero believes a strong Six Nations will be vital to the side's World Cup chances.
The 103-cap front-rower has challenged Italy to produce a Six Nations backlash to act as a springboard to facing Ireland and France again in Pool D at the World Cup.
"I hope the Italian players remember what happened in Dublin when they come into this game," Lo Cicero told Press Association Sport.
"They've got to take the frustrations from that game and bring them into this match.
"Italy aren't in the best shape at the moment, but during November things did improve slightly.
"There's a lot of young players coming through, but they don't have experience and they haven't gelled well yet with the experienced players.
"They will need a good Six Nations to boost their chances at the World Cup, but they will have to be at 100 per cent all the time for that.
"Ireland and France, in their minds they will feel they can beat Italy.
"That will be tough for Italy to change, but that's what they need to try to do before the World Cup.
"They have to show to Ireland and France, and others in the tournament, that they can compete, and win, again."
Argentina pulled off a 20-18 win over Italy in Genoa in November, but Lo Cicero believes despite defeat the Azzurri finally started their recovery in the autumn.
Reigning Six Nations champions Ireland have turned the driving maul into one of their chief weapons under Kiwi coach Schmidt with Lo Cicero admitting Italy could struggle against the ploy.
The former Toulouse and Racing Metro front-rower believes Italy must find new ways to combat revised laws and exploit their scrummaging power.
"The young players showed lots of encouraging signs against Argentina," said the 38-year-old former Test prop, speaking on behalf of Land Rover.
"But you have to show this commitment, this aggression, not just for one or two games, you have to show it for every game.
"It's not enough to show it for one game or one match.
"Ireland have been very strong in the maul, so Italy must be prepared for that challenge, and it's going to be a tough one.
"Italy can be strong in those areas but this will be one of the toughest battles of the match.
"Now the scrum is not as strong as it was before.
"It's very difficult to go to the scrum when you have some refereeing that goes against it.
"It's more difficult to use the scrum as a weapon now and that's tough for Italy.
"That's something they have to understand and try to work out ways around."
:: Andrea Lo Cicero is an ambassador for Land Rover, a worldwide partner of Rugby World Cup 2015. Keep up to date with the latest Land Rover rugby activity by following @LandRoverRugby on Twitter.