Sean Cronin: Italy haven’t played well in some people’s eyes, but we’re expecting a huge challenge
Ireland hooker Sean Cronin knows there will be few surprises when Ireland and Italy lock horns this weekend at the Olympic Stadium in London.
The Six Nations rivals will clash for the 25th occasion and while it would be considered a huge upset if the Italians registered their fifth win over Ireland, few expected their Six Nations two years ago in Rome.
Joe Schmidt’s side have registered successive bonus-point wins over Canada and Romania, but the Italians, who nearly came a cropper last time out against the plucky Canadians, will provide a sterner test.
Leinster’s dynamic hooker is expecting an improvement from two sides very familiar with the personnel that will be on show on Sunday.
“We know the huge threat they pose,” he said. We knew they'd have a tough game, because we played Canada and had to play pretty well in the first half to keep them at bay.
"I thought they hung in there very well, showed their experience. Especially the little wrap-around at the end. We play them on a regular basis. We know their players, they know us."
Cronin believes they have yet to show their full hand in the tournament and will have been targeting this match from the outset.
“They haven't shown too much and haven't played particularly well in people's eyes.
"We just have to be expecting a massive physical challenge around the maul and scrum area. Then they have dangerous outside backs and threats everywhere.
"They're bubbling nicely and they're probably targeting this match as their make or break."
Italy talisman Sergio Parisse must pass two more fitness tests before being cleared for Sunday’s showdown and the former Connacht man is under no illusions what the Stade Francais no 8 brings to the Italian challenge.
"He's absolutely huge for them. I'm sure he's going to give them a huge lift. You can see they raise the game with him in the side.
"With him on board we know they're going to be an even bigger threat."