Monday 21 January 2019

Schmidt: Big score just the Italian job

Coach wants Ireland to hit heights of last year's nine-try win when they take on O'Shea's side

Joe Schmidt Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt is targeting a big score against Italy tomorrow as Ireland look to kick on from their last-gasp win over France in Paris.

Johnny Sexton's late drop-goal secured a try-less victory at the Stade de France and after Wales and England picked up bonus points in their respective wins over Scotland and Italy on the opening weekend, Schmidt is acutely aware of the need to secure the maximum return.

He has made four changes to his side, with Dan Leavy and Jack Conan starting in the back-row, Devin Toner replacing James Ryan in the second-row and Jack McGrath coming in for Cian Healy at loosehead.

Jordan Larmour is in line for his debut from a bench laced with impact and while Ryan has a groin issue, Schmidt expects him to be fit to face Wales in two weeks' time.

Italy, meanwhile, have made three changes to their team with Conor O'Shea opting to freshen up his pack by introducing Luca Bigi, Nicola Quaglio and Braam Steyn.

Fans are expecting a big win and the coach wants to deliver just that against a team who shipped nine tries in each of their last two meetings with Ireland.

"I guess we never go in with that expectation," he said.

"We would love that to be the reality and it was the same last year and the year before. We want to get out there and score tries and last year the number of tries was fantastic.

"We knew we needed to score lots of points and I don't think that necessarily changes.

"You have got to keep scoring, keep driving yourself forward, because this competition, maybe not in the last two years but the two years previous to that, came down to very fine margins.

"So our intention is to keep scoring points. I think we have added some guys who can potentially help us do that and at the same time we try to have a focus on doing some things really well that will inevitably lead to opportunities where we can score points."

Irish Independent

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