Italy and Ireland will both be looking for much better displays following their opening Six Nations defeats when they meet in Rome this coming Saturday.
Joe Schmidt’s side will be overwhelming favourites to get a belated win on the board as they take on an Italian side looking to pick up the pieces after a second-half collapse saw them fall to a 33-7 defeat to Wales on Sunday.
Head coach Conor O’Shea and the Azzurri will be up against it against Ireland – and according to lock George Biagi, steering clear of Devin Toner will be essential to nullifying the threat of the visitors’ lineout.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the match on Saturday, the Scottish-born forward said that he knows all about the threat posed by Toner having faced him with Zebre in the Pro12 – and avoiding any sort of contest with him is key to stopping the lineout:
“I played against Devin about a month ago in the Pro 12 and there’s a good respect between us.
“In the lineout you have to try to stay as far away from him as possible, because he’s able to cover the last few feet virtually on his own.
We will have to try to move him around and to stay in front of him at the lineout, because if you find yourself behind him it is very, very difficult to counter.”
Nonetheless, Biagi expects a different sort of threat to that which Wales offered on Sunday – namely that he expects Ireland to be much more expansive than Rob Howley’s side were:
“We are talking about a completely different opponent from Wales, playing much more expansive rugby with very strong players in each role.
“It will be important not to give them the initiative of the game, and we’ll need to stop them in the way that Scotland did very well to take away their options.
“If we let them play in multi-phase we’ll make life extremely difficult for ourselves.”
Much of Italy’s preparation will depend on the fitness of captain Sergio Parisse. The number eight underwent an MRI scan on Monday after suffering from neck trauma against Wales, and faces a race against time to lead the side out at the Stadio Olimpico.