By Katie Field
The match in 30 seconds
Ireland will surely be crowned RBS Six Nations champions next weekend if they win in Paris, after running in seven tries to take their positive points difference in the table to 81. Man of the Match Brian O’Driscoll created three of the scores as Ireland turned a 17-7 half-time lead into a rout.
Italy were in the game at 7-7 as the half-hour approached, but conceded a penalty and a try before half-time and the hosts ran away with it after the break.
Ireland – Tries: Jonathan Sexton (2), Andrew Trimble, Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Fergus McFadden, Jack McGrath. Cons: Sexton (2), Paddy Jackson (2). Pens: Sexton
Italy – Try: Leonardo Sarto. Con: Luciano Orquera.
Click here for match highlights
– It was a dream-like farewell to the Aviva Stadium for Brian O’Driscoll on the day he won his world record-breaking 140th cap. He was deservedly named Man of the Match for the creative role he played one week before his Test retirement.
“To leave here is going to be hard,” said O’Driscoll after the match, “But it was a good way to leave it today and hopefully we set ourselves up for next week. I feel humbled by the reception today.”
– Martin Castrogiovanni’s record-breaking 105th appearance for Italy lasted just seven minutes as he limped off to be replaced by Lorenzo Cittadini.
– Italy made 208 tackles in the match, setting a new record for a Test match. It was their 18th consecutive away defeat in the Six Nations, which is a tournament record.
– Ireland ran 658 metres with the ball, compared to Italy’s 276. They won 154 rucks out of 157 whereas Italy won just 44 out of 49.
– Rob Kearney didn’t get among the try-scorers but he was a potent attacking force, running 116 metres. Chris Henry was Ireland’s busiest defender, making 12 tackles.
– Italy’s full-back, Luke McLean, also had a good game, making 60 metres in attack, while Joshua Furno was their star defender with 22 tackles.
– The Six Nations title is there for the taking for Ireland after winning by this margin. They need to keep cool heads in the build-up to next weekend’s game in Paris and on the pitch at the Stade de France and if they do, they have the quality and form to send O’Driscoll into retirement with another winners’ medal.
– It seems daft to criticise Ireland after a win by this kind of margin, but they spent much of the first half going through the phases without making much ground, so they need to get their heads up earlier in the game and look for the spaces.
– It looks like O’Driscoll may have employed Shane Williams’ script writer (remember the Welshman’s final touch in Test rugby?!) so we can all hope for more magic from the living legend as he plays his very last game of international rugby. He has some act to follow after this week’s performance, but O’Driscoll looks to be handling the pressure and emotion brilliantly.
– Italy welcome England to Rome next Saturday and need to find a way to hang onto more possession if they are to win, or come close. They had just 25% of the possession and 21% of the territory and lost two of their own lineouts and one of their own scrums.
Rugby World’s proposed Ireland XV v France: Rob Kearney; Andrew Trimble, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip.
Assuming Joe Schmidt doesn’t “do a Gatland” and drop O’Driscoll (just joking!), Ireland are only likely to make injury-related changes. Peter O’Mahony will return if he’s fit, after missing out this week. If Cian Healy’s injury rules him out, Jack McGrath will start, just as Eoin Reddan will replace Conor Murray if the scrum-half cannot play.
Rugby World’s proposed Italy XV v England: Luke McLean; Angelo Esposito, Michele Campagnaro, Gonzalo Garcia, Leonardo Sarto; Tommaso Allen, Edoardo Gori; Alberto de Marchi, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Marco Bortolami, Joshua Furno, Robert Barbieri, Sergio Parisse.
Skipper Sergio Parisse, rested this week, will surely return and the half-backs could change again, with Tommaso Allen and Edoardo Gori playing after a bit of bench time this week. Martin Castrogiovanni many miss out through injury, so Lorenzo Cittadini could replace him.