Six Nations

Nerves a no-no on Italian job, says Heaslip

2017-02-11 07:14
Jamie Heaslip (AFP)

Rome - Ireland No 8 Jamie Heaslip insists there will be no pre-match nerves ahead of a must-win Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Ireland, the 2015 champions, saw their tournament hopes hit by a 27-22 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield last week that left Joe Schmidt's men fourth in the table.

Another slip-up at the Stadio Olimpico, where Ireland last lost to the Azzurri in 2013, would spell disaster.

There was an ominous portent on Friday when hooker and captain Rory Best was laid low with a stomach bug, forcing Ireland to call up James Tracy as cover and with Niall Scannell a possible starter in the front row.

Best has been given bed rest in the hope he will recover in time for a match Ireland desperately need to win having shipped three tries to Scotland in the opening 15 minutes.

Heaslip said they won't make the same mistake twice and when asked if there would be no nerves before kick-off replied: "Absolutely not."

He added: "It doesn't come into it because if you focus on what you have to do, that kind of just takes it all away.

"Nerves are for people who aren't prepared, so as long as we're prepared and know our job I think that will take care of it.

"We're in a good place, but it's international rugby so you've got to go out there and you've got to deliver."

After seeing their pre-game preparations delayed 15 minutes when the team bus was re-routed on the way to Murrayfield, Schmidt will be doubly wary of avoiding a repeat.

Heaslip says meeting Italy in Rome is already "massive" in itself. And with Conor O'Shea, who played 35 times as a full-back for Ireland, now in charge, it just got harder.

O'Shea steered the Azzurri to an historic 20-18 victory over South Africa last November and led Italy into the dressing room at half-time 7-3 to the good before ill discipline returned to haunt them in the second half.

Heaslip added: "We've got a massive challenge ahead of us. Italy have been under a really good transformation since Conor has come in, as we seen in their November series, plus last week.

"Obviously we can't gift them the start that we did (against Scotland). A lot of the mistakes were on us, and gave Scotland the chance to come into the game.

"If we do something similar against Italy, they will punish us as well. But we've had a really good week's training."

Ireland's 58-15 win in Dublin last year was their fourth in succession, following the 22-15 Azzurri win in Rome four years ago.

Heaslip remembers the Italian capital "wasn't a great place to be" on his second visit.

But after seeing thousands of Irish fans invade the Eternal City in recent days, he is looking forward to doing battle in Italian rugby's very own "Colosseum".

"In terms of atmosphere it's a real Colosseum, they love their rugby," added Heaslip, who is set to earn his 93rd Ireland cap.

"It's good to see a lot of Irish people over here. It's going to be a real cauldron."

Teams:

Italy

15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Maxime MBanda, 5 Dries van Schalkwyk, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti

Substitutes: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Sami Panico, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 George Biagi, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Michele Campagnaro

Ireland

15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5  Devin Toner, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy

Substitutes: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 John Ryan, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Craig Gilroy

Read more on:    ireland  |  italy  |  six nations  |  jamie heaslip  |  rugby
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