Saturday 23 February 2019

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O’Shea’s Italians up next for Ireland

Wednesday, 7th February, 2018 5:12pm

Ireland will welcome Italy this week for their first home game of the Six nations, a week after the superb last-minute win over France in Paris.

Jonathan Sexton's last-gasp drop goal not only saw Ireland's Grand Slam dreams kept alive but it also saw them pick up just under half a rating point to boost their World Rugby Rankings' tally to 86.86, remaining at third best in the world.

Italy travel to the Aviva Stadium on the back of a 15-46 loss to England at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome and will hope to overturn last season's 10-63 thumping at the hands of Ireland.

Tadhg Furlong said: “Bodies are a little bit sore, obviously we were delighted to get a win. It's not an easy place to go and there's plenty aspects of our performance that we can improve on. It's a short enough turnaround to Italy this weekend, being back at home and all that brings with it.”

With the Irish players regularly meeting the Italians in club action, Furlong is not taking Ireland's record against the Italians for granted. “There's going to bring a massive challenge, it's a big pillar of the Italian game historically, their scrum and their line-out drive and obviously we get to play against these lads in the Pro14 every year so we have a fair bit of familiarity with them and the threat they pose.”

Their first game at home in the championship, Furlong is looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd. “It's massive for a player and the boost it gives you playing at home, especially in front of family and friends and people from your locality. The support is always fantastic and it gives us a lift when we need a lift in the game and it means a massive amount to the players.”

Meanwhile Ireland were dealt a blow this week with confirmation that Josh van der Flier has been ruled out for the rest of the season. The flanker sustained a serious knee ligament injury during last week's win against France and will not be available again this season.

Looking ahead to the team selection for the second round clash with Italy, Ireland kicking coach Richie Murphy said: “Every Six Nations game is one you have to win which makes it different from November. We have such a strong squad, we do feel comfortable in every player so we'll have a look at it.”

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