Brian O'Driscoll, the Ireland captain, is anticipating an Italian backlash at the Stadio Flaminico today. The mercurial centre believes the Azzurri will be smarting from the criticism they received from the Italian press following the 36-11 defeat they suffered at the hands of England at Twickenham last weekend and is warning his fancied side to be on their mettle. "It's good motivation for any team, not only the criticism they might be taking in the media but also coming off the back of a defeat," said O'Driscoll.
"They know they need to up their performance to make sure it doesn't happen again and on top of that you can use the media to your benefit. "The Italy we saw against England wasn't the Italy we've come to expect over the years. "I imagine they'll be playing their normal game - hard, physical rugby - which will make them very difficult to beat. "We don't think that if we play well we'll win, we're not arrogant enough to think that. But we're a difficult team to beat."
Italy are expected to provide Ireland with a much sterner with Mauro Bergamasco restored at flanker following last week's calamitous experiment of playing him at scrum-half. Paul Griffen fills the number nine jersey in what is regarded as the Azzurri's strongest side. Despite scaling the heights against France in a clinical victory which was lit up by some dazzling back play, Ireland have played down any notion of putting Italy to the sword. "Our games with Italy have grown much closer over the years and I wouldn't be surprised if it's a one-score game tomorrow," said coach Declan Kidney.
* With Agencies