Brunel :Italy must not let Ireland dictate pace

Italy coach Jacques Brunel says Italy will have to prevent Ireland from dictating the tempo of their Six Nations match if they are to win in Dublin.

Italy are looking for a boost following defeats against France and England this season while Ireland lost the only game they played against Wales.

It was the second time in a row the Irish have lost to Wales but Brunel says that doesn’t mean the 2009 Grand Slam winners are past their best.

“No, I don’t think so. It’s true that maybe there are a few players we’ve seen for a while,” said Brunel.

“We know (Paul) O’Connell and (Donncha) O’Callaghan but the back row have been playing for two or three years which means they’re experienced without being very old.

“It’s a team with a lot of potential, they knew how to change it bit by bit and we can see that without (Brian) O’Driscoll and (Ronan) O’Gara who plays less.

“They’ve brought (Jonathan) Sexton back in, they changed the scrum-half a year ago and they’ve modified their team while staying very competitive.

“They could have won just as easily as Wales. They’re two teams who are very close but in the game it went Wales’s way.

“Don’t forget Wales are the Six Nations favourites and they had a great World Cup.

“We can find a few excuses for Ireland but they deserved to win as much as Wales.

“They’re still a complete, strong, physically strong team and they can play in all areas.

“(They can play) up front while they have enterprising backs and Tommy Bowe who scores a lot.”

The key for Italy, says Brunel, is to stop Ireland dictating the tempo.

He says they’re very effective at slowling down opposition ball so his team have to find a way to combat that.

“It’s their characteristic, they’re best in this sector, they have the ability not just to get back the ball but also to dictate the rhythm of the match,” said Brunel.

“They’re the ones who impose their rhythm on their opponents, that’s a great strength and a crucial point.

“If ever we can resolve that so that we don’t submit to this pressure and instead turn it around then maybe we can get a result.

“They’re good at this but their strength can also be their weakness because being strong in one area can mean they are weaker in another, so it’s about solving that.

“We cannot get away from the breakdown, we have to be very precise in this zone at the least.

“In the challenges, the support, the quality of support, the technique of the ball carrier we must be very precise so as not to submit to our opponents’ control.”

Italy have never beaten Ireland in the Six Nations while last time out they came their closest yet to a first ever victory over England as they led 15-6 early in the second half in Rome before conceding 13 unanswered points.

But that defeat is now out of the team’s system.

“It was a good chance but then that means we’ve still got obstacles to pass but they’re there to be jumped,” said Brunel.

“We need to eliminate the defects in our game and the points we give away, and I’m not just talking about the counter-attacks.

“Three times we made a mistake (against England) and that was three points every time which we could avoid because they weren’t dangerous situations.

“We’re giving points away too easily and if we can eliminate that and be more effective in getting points with the boot then we will have the ability to get results.

“That’s our first objective.”

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