Eddie O'Sullivan has stressed the crucial role momentum plays in staging an RBS 6 Nations title challenge and the Ireland coach could not have asked for a kinder start to ignite Irish ambition.
Italy's exposure to regular top level competition since their entrance into the Six Nations in 2000 has resulted in a steady improvement but they still face a huge battle to avoid finishing bottom.
If they had a backline to match their robust forwards, who are led by the excellent Marco Bortolami and are frequently described as the most physical in the championship, they would be a formidable outfit.
But their shortcomings behind the scrum have been repeatedly exposed and they desperately need three-quarters capable of capitalising on the ball won by their pack.
Lack of talent behind the scrum is not a problem which affects Ireland, however, with many observers describing their backline as the best in the RBS 6 Nations.
Skipper Brian O'Driscoll is back after injury, and his last outing for Leinster against Bath signalled a glorious return to form, while the likes of Gordon D'Arcy and Shane Horgan provide more proven firepower.
The return of Lions second row Paul O'Connell, who also missed the November internationals through injury, adds steel to a pack which contains six Munstermen.
Italy may provide dogged resistance well into the second half but they may struggle in the final quarter, with Ireland expected to get their campaign off to a handsome start.
And O'Sullivan's men need to negotiate the first hurdle in style because next Saturday they travel to Paris, where France will show whether the new sense of optimism surrounding Irish rugby is well warranted.
Robin McBryde was assistant coach with Wales during the Championship
27 March 2017, 11:19am
Wales secured wins against Italy and Ireland in the 2017 RBS 6 Nations but were beaten in Paris and Edinburgh as well as suffering defeat to England in Cardiff. Here we take a look at what lies ahead for Wales in the next 12 months.