1. Is This The Worst Italian Side Since They Joined The Championship?
When the Five Nations became six in 2000, Italy joined the Championship having recorded wins over Ireland, Scotland and France throughout the 1990s.
However, this particular side is a shadow of the team that was led by Diego Dominguez and Alessandro Troncon. Despite beating South Africa during the autumn, it doesn’t appear as though Conor O’Shea has made any real impact as of yet.
At present, the Italians don’t look to have the capability of playing 80 minutes of international rugby. As a result, while they may be able to offer first half resistance, in the second 40 opponents such as Ireland and Wales will run in big scores.
The concession of 99 points in two consecutive home games does little for the moral of Italian rugby, nor does it benefit the Championship as a whole.
That’s not to say Romania or Georgia would do much better, but this cannot be allowed to continue.
2. Ireland’s Breakdown
Following Ireland’s defeat in Murrayfield, it was obvious that Scotland targeted the breakdown. Without committing numbers to the ruck or possessing a natural openside Joe Schmidt’s side were stalled.
In Rome however, Ireland drove past the gain line with numbers, creating quick ball which was put to good use.
This speed at which Ireland attacked, didn’t allow the Italian defence time to reorganise and double up on the likes of CJ Stander and Sean O’Brien.
In turn, they were able to identify weak links in the cover and drive straight through the midfield. CJ Stander’s illustrates this perfectly.
3. Ireland’s Defence
Irish fans shouldn’t get too carried away by the score line. This is arguably the worst Italian side we have seen for some time.
Nevertheless, had they been a better outfit, Italy might well have exposed Ireland’s weak defence on the flanks. Indeed, it appears as though little was learned from last week, where Irish defenders were far too narrow on a number of occasions.
However, Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell have two weeks address the issue before Ireland face France.
4. CJ Stander
Another man of the match award and another game in which CJ Stander carried with all his might. Following on from last week where the flanker made 48 meters, in Rome he kept Ireland on the front foot with a further 62.
However, after the game in Murrayfield, Stander was accused being one dimensional in some quarters, after failing to deliver a single offload and only passing the ball twice.
Although it may have only been Italy, Stander did pass the ball on ten occasions and recorded one offload. This is encouraging, as if Ireland are to beat France, Wales and England, Stander will have to bring more variation.
5. Gary Ringrose
Gary Ringrose didn’t cover himself in glory last weekend against Scotland. He looked vulnerable in defence and didn’t offer much in attack either.
However, after scoring a wonderful try against Italy, those comparisons with Brian O’Driscoll will once more be made. It’s hard not to, Ringrose’s body position and low centre of gravity are traits we all associated with former Irish captain.
Again, it was only Italy and they didn’t offer much resistance, but Ringrose glided past any number of defenders before touching down.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena