Flyhalf Paolo Garbisi believes Italy are ready for the “toughest game in world rugby” and expects the match against Ireland to be twice as tough as against England. There is.
The Azzurri open the season with a narrow 27-24 loss to Steve Borthwick’s side in Rome, before taking on the reigning Guinness Six Nations champions in Dublin on Sunday.
Ireland were the overwhelming favorites at a packed Aviva Stadium and remain on track for a consecutive Grand Slam title after crushing France with five tries.
Montpellier’s Garbisi admits his country have been behind in almost every game since joining the Championship in 2000, and is preparing for the ultimate test.
“Obviously we were pretty proud of our performance[against England],” he told the PA news agency.
“We knew it wasn’t perfect, otherwise we probably would have won that game, so there were a lot of things to improve on and things to work on.
“But we know this week is probably going to be twice as difficult. We know what’s going to happen and I think we’re ready.
“I think it’s the most difficult game in world rugby right now. We play one of the best teams in their place.
“This will probably be the most difficult thing to do in rugby this year as it will be the first time we are playing at home in the Six Nations.”
Italy have never won a Six Nations match on Irish soil, with their only successful victory coming in 2013 when they won 22-15 at the Stadio Olimpico.
Pundits and bookmakers believe the Azzurri have little chance of changing that statistic this weekend, having endured a dismal World Cup season before Gonzalo Quesada replaced Kieran Crowley as head coach.
“We try not to focus too much on those things,” Garbisi said.
“We don’t really worry about it because I think it’s been 20 years where people haven’t given us a chance. We want to be as prepared as possible to perform as well as we can. Masu.
“We know they are very good in all aspects, attack, defense, kicking game. But I think what impressed me the most was the ruck. It’s a way to slow down the opponent’s ball. That’s what they’re really good at.
“If we can keep the pace of breakdowns fast, we’ll manage to keep them out of trouble.”
Garbisi will face rival number 10 Jack Crowley this weekend after former Ireland captain Johnny Sexton retired after the World Cup.
The 23-year-old feels the departure of the influential Sexton has left a void, but believes 24-year-old Crowley has a “very bright future”.
“That’s quite a difference because the leadership that Sexton brought to the team was great,” Garbisi said.
“I think we were a different team when he was playing than when he wasn’t playing.
“Crawley is a very good No. 10 and he’s quite young, I think he’s around the same age as me, but I think he has a very bright future to take Ireland forward.”
Italy lost back-row forwards Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone to injury, but mercurial full-back Ange Capozzo returned from illness.
“I hope he makes a big difference for us,” Garbisi said of Capozzo.
“But it’s not just his responsibility, it’s ours too. Give him good attacking balls, put him in good spaces where he can be one-on-one with defenders, so he can use his feet and quickness. We must strive to do so.”