Winning is everything as Ireland dismiss talk of 'transition' ahead of Italy encounter
In the wake of Ireland's defeat to England in Twickenham, Joe Schmidt suggested that his team are going through a transition period but that idea won't be used as an excuse, according to manager Mick Kearney and winger Andrew Trimble.
Deprived of the services of a host of key men due to retirement and injury, Schmidt has blooded four new caps during the Six Nations and yesterday added Jack O'Donoghue to his 35-man panel. With two games remaining, a third successive title is beyond the champions, who drew with Wales and lost to France and England, but they insist that they are not writing this campaign off.
"The Six Nations is Test-match rugby, it's all about winning. We'll treat Italy with the utmost respect," Kearney said. "We have an opportunity to finish in the top half depending on how other results go so I don't think the players, coaches or management are looking upon this as a transition period.
"Coaches are working with what they have and are expecting the performances to be up there with last year or the year before."
Jared Payne looks set to come back into the team after recovering from his hamstring injury to train yesterday, but Tommy O'Donnell is struggling after picking up a 'stinger' to his shoulder.
"We're very self-assured, we know the guys we are sharing the dressing-room with and know how much quality is there," Trimble (pictured) said. "It's easy to talk about the guys who aren't here but the guys who are here, guys making their debuts, stepped up and produced big performances. That's a reflection that the transition is over, these guys are stepping up, moving on and they're fully-fledged internationals performing really well.
"There's very fine margins. The last two Six Nations campaigns, we've maybe been on the right side of those margins and this time we're on the wrong side of them and all of a sudden there's a lot of talk of this transition.
"As much as we don't want to read too much into the fine margins when we're winning, we just don't want to get too bogged down and think it's all doom and gloom whenever we're losing."