The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
For a time the trio of Stephen Ferris, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip looked unstoppable. Last season Heaslip and O’Brien were in outstanding form in Leinster’s Heineken Cup victory while Ferris was superb for Ulster.
The triumvirate combined to devastating effect in the World Cup when Ireland defeated Australia but just as their star was in the ascendancy they were brought down to earth with a thump against Wales in the quarter-final.
Ireland particularly struggled to nullify the threat of Sam Warburton at openside and theywere again left on the backfoot at the Aviva Stadium in their 23-21 RBS 6 Nations reverse to Warren Gatland’s side.
Italy will pose their own threats on Saturday and, following the postponement of their game against France, former Ireland and Munster flanker Alan Quinlan expects them to come out firing.
But the lack of an out-and-out openside remains a concern with converted blinside O’Brien filling the No. 7 shirt.
And until the 25-year-old – who is Ireland’s reigning player of the year – can combine the dark arts Quinlan knew so well with his rampaging ball carrying then Quinlan believes his gifts may need to be used elsewhere.
“After the France postponement, I think there’s extra pressure because they have had an extra couple of weeks off to prepare,” said Quinlan who retired at the end of last season.
“I would expect them to come out firing at the start and get the job done as quickly as possible.
“The Wales defeat was very disappointing. In Ireland there was just a feeling of huge disappointment because everybody was so positive going into that game.
“Against Wales I just felt they dominated the breakdown again. They brought an intensity Ireland didn’t match and they had so much physicality in their backline.
“Ireland just sat off them too much and just seemed very passive at the breakdown and that’s something they need to improve on.
“It is an area Ireland will have to look closely at if things don’t get better. There’s certainly an argument for having an out-and-out seven there.
“They have had more time to prepare for this game and I think you will see Sean O’Brien playing more as a conventional seven.
“He can’t sit back waiting to carry the ball, he has to be involved in all areas. They need to do something this weekend and see a reaction this weekend because there’s an argument to say the backrow is unbalanced and they need to prove otherwise.”