/ Rugby

Irish squad in good form ahead of Italian job

Updated: Monday, 07 Mar 2016 21:04 | Comments

Mick Kearney feels if Ireland can cut out the mistakes they will be in position to beat the Italians
Mick Kearney feels if Ireland can cut out the mistakes they will be in position to beat the Italians

Ireland team manager Mick Kearney has said the squad are in good form ahead of Saturday's Six Nations clash with Italy.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Kearney said there is "an air of excitement in the camp" as Ireland seek to record their first win of the campaign when they welcome the Azzurri to the Aviva.

Kearney said he believes there is "a good opportunity" to finish in the top half of the Six Nations table if they can record back-to-back home wins over Italy and Scotland, something that would be "pleasing after the first three games of the championship".

Nineteen of the 35 players in the Irish camp featured in the Pro12 at the weekend, but despite this they were "mentally very fresh" on arrival at Carton House last night.

Kearney feels that if Ireland can cut out the mistakes they will be in position to beat the Italians.

"I think the performances to date have been reasonable without being spectacular," he said.  

"We’ve obviously left things behind us, we haven’t executed maybe as well as we might have, but certainly if we can tweak a few things and just maybe hold on to that final pass or cut out the mistakes, especially in the opposition 22, we’ll get a different result on Saturday."

He admitted Ireland haven't been performing at 100% in their first three games, but added there are positives to be taken from the performances.

"We’re not 100%, I think we’re not 95% to be honest, but at the same time we’ve made line breaks, we’ve played some really good rugby, particularly in the second half last week against England.

"We don’t feel we’re a million miles away, but at the same time the onus is on everyone this week to get that detail absolutely right."

Despite the number of players who featured at the weekend, Kearney was able to report an almost clean bill of health within the squad, with only Tommy O'Donnell being monitored by the medical team after picking up a stinger injury.

O'Donnell will sit out training this afternoon but is expected to return tomorrow.

Jared Payne, who had been out with a hamstring injury, is available for selection at the weekend and will train fully this afternoon.

Despite the fact that there is no championship on the line, Kearney feels Joe Schmidt will field as strong a team as possible at the weekend, which may come as bad news to the uncapped members of the squad, including newly called-up Jack O'Donoghue.

 "I think it's a Test match, it's a Six Nations Test match. You have to respect the opposition so I can see that Joe will put out a team that will be the best team he can pick for the weekend."

Kearney also indicated Ireland are not taking their Italian job lightly.

"Italy are a very good side, they gave us a lot of trouble in that World Cup match, they ran France very close in Paris, they ran England very close for 60 minutes and against Scotland they enjoyed something like 78% possession in the second half.

"They are a quality side, we wouldn’t want to underestimate them."

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