Ireland rugby captain Paul O’Connell is wary of Italy ahead of Saturday’s return to Six Nations action at the Aviva Stadium.
Still disappointed by the postponement of their match in Paris a fortnight ago, Ireland will finally get back on the field for their second game of the tournament.
Italy lost a game they could have won against England two weeks ago and O’Connell is well aware that they have yet to record a win over his team.
Ireland were poor as they went down to Wales in the opening fixture of the campaign and O’Connell acknowledges that new Italian coach Jacques Brunel will take advantage of any slip-up.
“Italy’s belief and confidence will have grown after their performance against England,” declared O’Connell.
“That was probably their best chance of beating England since the Six Nations started. Even though they lost to France, they played a lot of good rugby and were good with the ball in hand at times.
“Their attack has been a lot better over the last two games. They’re beginning to mix it up and that’s what you must do to be successful.
“You need that big, strong pack that can get you over the gainline. But once you’ve done that you must be able to attack out wide.
“They seem to have improved a lot in that regard since the Six Nations started. But we’re hungry and enthusiastic. If we meet the physical challenge, we have a great chance of winning.”
Declan Kidney’s Ireland haven’t played as a unit in three weeks now and O’Connell says they are chomping at the bit for Six Nations action.
He said: “The guys are dying to play. We’ve been well looked after by the union coming into the competition.
“We were given two weeks without any games over Christmas and straight after the World Cup. Guys are well rested and feel fresh.
“The break hasn’t been ideal, especially after you lose a game in the fashion we did to Wales. We were bitterly disappointed by what happened and are eager to put that right.
“You just want to get out there and play, so to sit on our hands for a few weeks has been frustrating. The guys are really looking forward to playing.”