x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Irish to face Azzurri head on

Mike Ross says that Ireland is ready to accept the challenge issued by Italy's coach Nick Mattlett today.

Mike Ross, centre, says he and his Ireland teammates will be ready to breakdown Italy's scrum.
Mike Ross, centre, says he and his Ireland teammates will be ready to breakdown Italy's scrum.

Mike Ross said that Ireland's improving scrum is ready to accept the challenge issued by Nick Mallett, Italy's coach.

The Pool C rivals collide at Otago Stadium Sunday with the winners progressing to the World Cup quarter-finals and the losers returning home.

Expectations surrounding the match have been amplified by the declarations of Mallett, who said during the week that the Azzurri have a stronger front row and are ready to prove it.

Ross, who will pack down alongside loose-head prop Cian Healy and hooker Rory Best, said that Ireland will meet them head on.

"Nick's justifiably proud of Italy's scrum, but we're confident that we'll be able to handle whatever they throw at us," he said.

"The important thing is not to get too worked up about it and concentrate on what we do."

Ireland edged past Italy 13-11 in Rome during the Six Nations this year, but Ross is confident they will do better today.

"We coughed up a few penalties against Italy in February, but the scrum has come on a long way since then," he said. "It should be an interesting battle." If Ireland win they will top Pool C, while an Italian victory would see them go through as runners-up behind Australia, with Ireland going out. A draw would see Ireland go through in the second spot.

Ireland's victory over Australia two weeks ago was a huge upset, but Brian O'Driscoll, the Irish captain, said it would count for nothing if they did not triumph today.

"We always thought we could beat Australia, but it hasn't made the group any different. We still have to beat Italy in the final game."

Mallett defended his comments on his pack: "I don't regret what I said. There isn't a single team we haven't been good against in the scrum. It's not an arrogant comment, it's a realistic comment."

In Sunday's other action, Wales need only to avoid losing and conceding four tries to Fiji to ensure they go through as runners-up in Pool D behind South Africa. New Zealand, who have already won Pool A, will be without Dan Carter for their clash with Canada, as the fly-half is struggling with a hamstring problem.

Argentina need only a bonus point in their Pool B clash with Georgia on Sunday to ensure they reach the knockout stages at the expense of Scotland, and set up a quarter-final with New Zealand.