Ireland beat Italy 36-6 on in RWC11 about five months ago. Bear that in mind as the standard for the upcoming game between the two sides for three good reasons:
- it was a match of equal importance to both teams; and that’s a positive equal importance, in that it was a vital [sorry, Donal Lenihan, “voital!“] game rather than a battle of who could care less;
- it was on neutral territory, way down in Otago; and
- both teams were as close to full strength as you will get in international rugby.
Ireland go into their first home game of the 2012 Six Nations missing one player through injury from the line-up that faced Italy in the World Cup – Brian O’Driscoll. Obviously he’s a huge loss for Ireland as captain and the leader of the backline defense, but he played the entire World Cup with one arm: bringing in a fully-fit player ahead of one carrying a long-term injury shouldn’t be as horrific a trade-off as an “O’Driscoll Out!” headline would seem at first glance.
So, if Ireland won a game in a clinical trial-type environment [see above] between the two teams five months ago by a clear thirty points, why aren’t we more bullish about the forthcoming match at Lansdowne Road? There are way too many pre-emptive excuses being made by people outside the coaching team; for example, Conor O’Shea on RTE this morning. The incessant dampening of expectations, the “People shouldn’t expect to see a big win” school of punditry, is becoming a little irritating. Italy are no good away from home. Given the talent available to Declan Kidney, and the recent result of the game played out in the World Cup, people should expect to see a big win. Ireland should be aiming for a big win.
While I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of Kidney at the moment [nor his biggest critic, incidentally], you couldn’t accuse him of hyping the Italian chances. He has the same demeanour as usual: straight-bat all the way back down the crease. It’s those tired old faces on television, voices on the radio and scribes at their typewriters that spout the same guff, seemingly regardless of fact. Italy haven’t really improved, despite what you’ll hear said about a dozen times over the next week . They got plowed by France in Paris, and lost narrowly to England at home … what’s new?
Six Nations 2012
- Sat 04 Feb 2012 France 30 – 12 Italy [France +18]
- Sat 11 Feb 2012 Italy 15 – 19 England [England +4]
- Sun 14 Feb 2010 Italy 12 – 17 England [England +5]
- Sun 14 Mar 2010 France 46 – 20 Italy [France +26]
Six Nations 2008
- Sun 10 Feb 2008 Italy 19 – 23 England [England +4]
- Sun 09 Mar 2008 France 25 – 13 Italy [France +12]
This happens every other year. Again, Italy are not a competitive team away from home. Check out their results in the Six Nations over the last decade. Despite the fact that we’re not a particularly good team at home, we really should be looking to put 25 points between the teams by full-time. That’s less than the final difference in the World Cup group game [taking into account home ‘advantage’].